Orange the World 2020: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect
November 25 is celebrated annually around the world, as a day to recognize women’s plight and challenges especially as it relates to sexual and gender based violence. The violation of women in the homes, schools, work places, religious spaces, communities, streets and others, cannot be overlooked, over emphasized or ignored.
In the year 2020, along with the various challenges already faced by women, COVID 19 has had devastating social and economic consequences on women and girls, all around the world. It has further proven the need to empower, take stock and prevent reoccurrences of these violations.
This year’s global theme: “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect!” is “amplifying the call for global action to bridge funding gaps, ensure essential services for survivors of violence during the COVID 19 crisis, focus on prevention and collection of data that can improve life saving services for women and girls.”
Beyond COVID 19 however, there should be sufficient funding for women empowerment initiatives along with equal pay for women; quick response to victims and survivors of sexual and gender based violence; prevention of all forms of violence against women in all spaces; and collecting and storing of disaggregated data on different forms of violence against women to inform policies and programs.
We welcome the creation of the 24 hour toll free Gender Based Violence (GBV) hotline in The Gambia, a partnership between the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and Paradise foundation as a first step to curbing this crisis. Notwithstanding, we call on women and girls to make use of this service should need be by calling the number 1313.
The TRRC once again commits its resolve to continue to thoroughly investigate issues of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) as part of our mandate to create a historic and impartial record of human rights violations that occurred in The Gambia between July 1994 and January 2017. As at today, we have heard testimonies from 65 women and 10 SGBV survivors. In order to be able to fully establish the extent and scope of violations against women, we reiterate the need for victims to share their stories with us. We reassure you that the TRRC is a safe space and utmost respect and confidentiality is assured and guaranteed for everyone.
MEDIA ADVISORY: TRRC to Submit Final Report in Early July 2021
Statement by the Chairman of TRRC (25 November 2020)
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission recently undertook a comprehensive review of the remaining themes in its work programme covering public hearings and investigations. These themes include the following:
- the killing of an estimated 56 West African migrants in 2005,/li>
- the enforced disappearances of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh and others,
- the creation of instruments of oppression and the debasement of the Gambian constitution,
- the April 14, 2016 protest leading to the arrest and torture of many persons and the alleged killing of Solo Sandeng,
- sexual and gender-based violence (part two), and
- Junglers (part two).
The Commission, in compliance with the COVID-19 related health regulations issued by the Government, scaled down its activities. In view of the interruptions in its work programme, the Commission concluded that in order to complete its work in a timely manner, it needed more time beyond the two years provided for under the TRRC Act, 2017. Accordingly, the Commission, on 18 November 2020, recommended to the President of the Republic to extend the time granted to TRRC until 30 June 2021. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice informed the Commission that the President, pursuant to Section (3), (2) of the TRRC Act, 2017, has approved the said recommendation.
The Commission will, therefore, conclude its public hearings during the first week of May 2021, and prepare during the rest of May and June the final report containing its findings and recommendations. That report will be submitted to the President in early July.
In view of the urgency of finishing its work under the revised schedule, and in a departure from tradition, the Commission will not suspend its public hearings during the month of Ramadan (12 April-11 May 2021).
Victims Return from Medical Treatment in Turkey
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission is pleased to announce the arrival home of Nogoi Njie and Oumie Jagne, both victims of human rights violations after undergoing successful medical treatment in Turkey. Their return follows the arrival of Abdou Karim Jammeh a few weeks ago after undergoing medical treatment at the same hospital in Turkey. All three out of four of the victims sent to Turkey for medical treatment have now safely returned home. The TRRC thanks the Turkish government through its ambassador, the Medical Board headed by Dr. Roberts at the EFSTH, the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations (Victims Center), the Gambia Ports Authority and Papa Yusupha Njie for their support.
THE CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT: Opening of the Seventeenth Session of Hearings
by Dr Lamin J. Sise
Monday 9th November
Today, Monday 9 November, 2020, the TRRC will begin its 17th three-week session of public hearings. As at the end of the 16th session, the Commission had heard testimonies from 277 witnesses. Of these, 209 were male and 68 were female. Out of the total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission so far, 168 were victims and 50 were self-confessed perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons.Twenty-seven witnesses have testified via video link from the Gambian Diaspora. These hearings also included several protected witnesses and in-camera testimonies.On 21 October 2020, the Commission concluded its public hearings on the Presidential Alternative Treatment Programme (PATP). Among other things, I, in my capacity as Chairman, read for the record of the Commission the names of thirty-one individuals who died either during the treatment programme or shortly after leaving it. These unfortunate souls, the majority of them citizens of The Gambia, were victims of the State who were lured into the PATP, having been told that the President of The Republic of The Gambia could cure HIV/AIDS, the ailment afflicting these individuals. It was a brazen and mendacious claim! The treatment, in all its manifestations, constituted a gross violation and abuse of the human rights of these patients. Again, for the record, the thirty-one individuals are the following:
Those that died during the treatment:
- Fatou Ceesay
- Nyima Keita
- Mariama Jawara
- Fatou Sonko
- Lamin Dampha
- Adama Jobarteh
- Malick Jeng
- Lamin Jarjue
- Lamin Batiya
Those that died after the treatment:
- Haruna Bojang
- Amadou Jammeh
- Karafa Jarju Ousman
- Ansumana Dampha
- Musa Dibbasey
- Mariama Tamba
- Tida Gibba
- Kebba Saidy
- Ya Fatou Sanyang
- Pa Badjie
- Rabiatou Bah
- Banna Jallow
- Olimatou Jammeh
- Adama Samba
- Fatou Trawalleh
- Sunkary Bojang
- Saffiatou Sanneh
- Lamin Sanneh
- Mai Sanneh
- Adama Sanneh
- Sonah Bah
The Commission will draw its conclusions on these violations and abuses and the death of these vulnerable individuals. May their souls rest in peace. In carrying out its mandate to create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights in The Gambia during the period July 1994 to January 2017, the Commission commenced on 22 October 2020, institutional hearings on the NIA which will provide a backdrop against which the violations and abuses occurred. The hearings are not intended to absolve anyone of individual responsibility but rather to provide the institutional context that facilitated the commission of the violations and abuses by state-agents or sponsored perpetrators. The findings and conclusions reached by the Commission from these hearings will hopefully be designed to help transform and reform the institutions that aided and enabled the commission of the violations, including the establishment of oversight bodies to monitor and respond to such violations. As we continue our public hearings, this Commission reaffirms its commitment to execute to the best of its ability, and without fear or favor, affection or ill will, the mandate entrusted to it by the Gambian people through their National Assembly. We renew our call to all victims of human rights violations between July 1994 and January 2017, and all persons who may have helpful information to please come forward and give statements or share their stories with us. We reassure all potential witnesses that their confidentiality is fully guaranteed. And as usual, we crave the public’s continued support and prayers as together we continue this important journey.
More Victims sent for Overseas Medical Treatment
Three victims of human rights violations who testified before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission on Monday 26th October left for Dakar, Senegal to undergo medical treatment. The treatments are fully funded by the TRRC as interim reparations to victims who need urgent medical attentions. This is a continuation of the TRRC reparations programme, a core mandate of the commission. The victims who are expected to stay in Dakar for one month are being escorted by a member of staff of the TRRC victim support unit. It could be recalled that the TRRC have sent four victims to Turkey for medical treatment in December 2019. One of them returned home after successfully completing his treatment and fully recovered.
OBITUARY: Passing of Former Head of Video Documentation and Processing
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission regrets to announce the death of Ebou Waggeh which sad event took place today Monday 26th October, 2020 in Kanifing. Until recently, Ebou Waggeh was the head of video documentation and processing at TRRC. The chairman, Commissioners and members of staff of TRRC extend their heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family, friends and loved ones of the late Ebou Waggeh. May Allah grant him Jannah.
TRRC covid-19 relief to victims continues
The TRRC, with support from The United Nations Peace Building Fund through the UN Transitional Justice and Human Rights Project, continues to provide COVID-19 relief food aid to victims of human rights violations. Between yesterday and today (23rd and 24th October 2020), we delivered food items to 80 victims. This has brought the total number to 221 victims who have receive this aid. For the remainder of October through December, more victims will receive similar support.
We encourage victims who are in need help with acquiring medical gadgets and equipment to apply at the TRRC for the purchase of these items. #neveragain
THE CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT: Opening of the Sixteenth Session of TRRC hearings
by Dr. Lamin J. Sise
October 12, 2020
Today, Monday 12 October, 2020, the TRRC will begin its 16th three-week session of public hearings. The Commission suspended its public hearings on August 4, 2020 due to the Covid-19 situation in the country. The decision to resume public hearings was taken in the light of the Commission’s belief that the Covid-19 situation in the country is less intense than it was back in August.We also resume today bearing in mind the fact that exactly two years ago on October 15, 2018, Commissioners of the TRRC were sworn in by the President of the Republic and set about plans to begin public hearings.
As at the time of the second suspension of public hearings in August, the Commission had heard testimonies from 261 witnesses. Of these witnesses, 195 were male and 66 were female. Out of the total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission so far, 166 were victims and 46 were self-confessed perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons. Twenty-five witnesses testified via video link from the Gambian Diaspora. These hearings also included several protected witnesses and in-camera testimonies. This 16th session will open with a continuation of our hearings on the former president’s alternative HIV/AIDS and other diseases treatment programme during which several people suffered human rights violations and abuses.
As we resume our public hearings, the Commission assures the Gambian public and our international partners that it remains fully inspired, committed and determined tocomplete the mandate entrusted to it and to submit its final report and recommendations sometime in 2021. As we embark upon this final phase of our work we as usual, continue to crave the public’s support and blessings.
TRRC Covid-19 Food Aid to Victims
With support from The United Nations Transitional Justice and Human Rights Project, The TRRC was able to provide food aid support to 50 Victims yesterday (26th September 2020). This has brought the total number of food aid support under the UN Peace Building Fund to 101 victims. The Fund, amongst other things provides timely relief in the form of food aid to victims during the Covid-19 period to improve on the nutritional needs and status of victims in need. The Peace Building Fund, together with the Irish Government Fund (which supports victims of SGBV) constitute the Victim Participation Support Fund. A total number of 141 victims, including 40 victims of SGBV have so far benefitted from the food aid support under the Victim Participation Support Fund.
TRRC UPDATE: Hearings set to Resume on the 12th October 2020
By Baba Galleh Jallow
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission is set to resume its public hearings on Monday, October 12 after a long break due to the Covid-19 situation in the country. The decision to resume public hearings was taken after careful consultations and considerations of the Covid-19 situation in the country. The TRRC is also cognizant of the palpable desire of the Gambian public for hearings to resume.
As at the time of the TRRC’s second suspension of public hearings on August 4, 2020 the Commission had heard testimonies from 261 witnesses during 15 three-week sessions. Of these witnesses, 195 were male and 66 were female. Out of the 261 witnesses, 166 were victims and 46 were self-confessed perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons. Twenty-five of the 261 witnesses testified via video link from the Gambian Diaspora. These hearings also included several protected witnesses and in-camera testimonies.
So far, the TRRC has covered the majority of themes on its work plan. The themes covered are the 22nd July, 1994 coup, the November 11, 1994 incident, the January 1995 arrest and incarceration of the two members of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council, the June 1995 murder of former Finance minister Ousman Koro Ceesay, the 1996 Denton Bridge incident involving security forces and members of the opposition United Democratic Party, violations of press freedom and the rights of journalists, the activities of the former president’s death squad, The Junglers, the April 10th and 11th, 2000 student demonstrations during which security forces shot and killed over 14 school children and one Red Cross volunteer, and wounded several others, sexual and gender-based violence, Jammeh’s 2009 witch hunting exercise in the Greater Banjul Area and the West Coast and North Bank Regions, attacks on road users by Jammeh’s convoys, an institutional hearing on the prisons, and Jammeh’s alternative HIV/AIDS and other diseases alternative treatment program.
For the remaining period of its mandate, the Commission is scheduled to hold institutional hearings on the NIA and the Judiciary among other public institutions, the 2005 murder of at least 56 West African nationals, including 44 Ghanaians, enforced disappearances, and the April 2016 incident during which several people were arrested and tortured resulting in at least one death. The Commission also hopes to hear testimony from other Junglers and victims of sexual and gender-based violence. The Commission’s initial plan was to conclude its public hearings in October 2020. However, as a result of two suspensions of public hearing due to the Covid-19 situation, that is clearly not possible. As things stand, hearings may continue into the first quarter of 2021.
Face to face outreach activities were suspended for most of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the various units of the Secretariat continued their operations using the best possible means in the light of the Covid-19 situation. The Communications Unit with the support of the UNDP TJ team conducted numerous outreach activities during this period. These activities included short TV messages in the local languages encouraging victims and witnesses to register and submit statements; messages on the TRRC’s Victim Participation Support Fund, its eligibility criteria and how to apply to access the fund; TV bumpers and radio jingles in English and local languages on the importance of registering with the TRRC; and on aspects of the TRRC’s mandate such as reconciliation, reparations, prosecutions, and amnesty and the NEVER AGAIN concept; radio talk shows along with the Victims Centre for three consecutive weeks, speaking on TRRC’s victim-centered approach, urgent assistance rendered to victims and encouraging victims to come out and register with TRRC; and granting interviews to numerous local radio stations on various issues. The Communications Unit also produced four short dramas on the TRRC’s work in different languages that will be broadcast in the near future.
Also active in outreach activities was the TRRC’s Women’s Affairs Unit. The Unit’s activities during the period under review included the preparation and signing of MOUs with 10 women-led organizations; preparation of concept notes for the conduct of research on the gender dimensions of 22 years of dictatorship; preparation of a research timeline and setting up of a research team within the unit; participation in podcasts on SGBV in collaboration with the UNDP TJ team in the local languages; and conducting women’s dialogues and listening circles in the URR, NBR and West Coast Regions.
Under the supervision of the TRRC’s Reparations Committee, a reparations policy has been adopted by the Commission and a set of reparations rules and regulations drafted and validated. The rules will be submitted to the MoJ for gazetting. It is expected that the Commission will start paying monetary reparations to victims before the end of this year.
Meanwhile, the Victim Support Unit has continued to implement the TRRC’s Interim Reparations Programme under the Covid-19 lockdown. In addition to giving ongoing support to four victims receiving medical treatment in Turkey, the Unit has been actively supporting victims in the country. One of these four victims in Turkey who also works as a Victim Support Officer for the TRRC returned to The Gambia last week after completing his medical treatment.
For the second year in a row, the TRRC has received funding from the United Nations Transitional Justice and Human Rights Project to implement the Commission’s Victim Participation Support Fund. The purpose of this Fund is to increase the participation of victims, their family members, witnesses and other informants in the TRRC processes, particularly in statement-taking, investigations and hearings, and finding remedies to their immediate and basic medical needs. The Victim Participation Support Fund covers expenses such as food aid for victims during the COVID-19 period; transport refund for victims who come to the TRRC premises; provision of food and refreshments; Daily Sustenance Allowance (DSA) and supply of medical gadgets to victims; psychosocial and trauma support services; as well as livelihood support for victims through the TRRC’s Welfare Committee.
By July 2020 more than 250 victims had benefited from the TRRC’s general welfare support while 66 received COVID-19 relief support. Fifteen SGBV victims and survivors have also benefitted from this fund, including the COVID-19 relief package. From August 2020 to date, the Commission has received more than 260 new applications for the COVID-19 relief package, 47 of which came from SGBV victims/survivors. The TRRC Welfare Committee will sit on Monday, 21 September to review these applications and provide the necessary support accordingly.
We are happy to report that the Victim Support Unit is fully resourced to reach and provide timely support services to registered victims. The Victim Support Fund provided timely relief in the form of food aid to victims during the Covid-19 lockdown period to improve on the nutritional status of victims in need. Chronically ill victims were provided with medications and medical items to aid their recovery in other to participate in the TRRC processes. The Victim Support Unit under this Fund started providing home visits for victims needing constant medical support. Conducive conditions are provided at the TRRC premises to aid the participation of victims before, during and after the hearings.
The TRRC’s Research and Investigations Unit has remained active throughout the COVID-19 suspension of hearings. Statement-taking from victims and other witnesses around the country has continued unabated mainly via phone calls. Research and Investigations have also continued on the remaining themes on the Commission’s wok plan.
Meanwhile, several activities have been initiated in readiness for work on the TRRC’s final report. A Proofreading Unit has been set up to proofread the transcripts of all testimonies for typos and grammatical errors by transcribers. These transcripts in addition to all statements submitted by all victims and witnesses will be the sources of information for the final report. A working group consisting of Commissioners, the Legal Team and the Secretariat will be set up to oversee work on the final report. With support from the UNDP TJ and Human Rights Project, consultants and data analysts are being recruited to provide support to the working group in putting together the final report.
Over the past couple of months, we have received several enquiries as to whether the Commission would seek an extension beyond its two-year mandate period. The answer to that question is definitely yes. Even without the Covid-19 disruptions, the Commission would have sought an extension to accommodate completion of the final report writing process. Writing a truth commission’s final report is proving to be an incredibly complex process, but we anticipate that the TRRC’s final report and recommendations would be completed and submitted to the government by June 2021.
TRRC Suspends Public Hearings
Signing MOU with Grassroots Women's Organisations
On Monday, 13th July, 2020, the Women Affairs Unit of TRRC with support from the UNDP Transitional Justice project office held a signing ceremony at the TRRC Conference to sign MoU with 10 women led Civil Society Organizations in The Gambia. The organizations include; Think Young Women, Network Against Gender Based Violence, Women In Liberation and Leadership, West Africa Network for Peace building- The Gambia, The Girls’ Agenda, Gambia Federation for the Disable, FAWEGAM, Female Lawyers’ Association Gambia, Women’s Association for Victims Empowerment and Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violation.The activity targeted 2 top level staff from each organizations to witness the signing ceremony.
The aim of having a Memorandum of Understanding with the Civil Society Organizations is to involve them into the work of the TRRC, build partnership and solicit for their support and cooperation in supporting women and providing them continuous support even after the TRRC 2 year mandate.
Ms. Haddy Jallow, the deputy director of Human resources in her welcoming remarks said the signing of the MoU was very critical in making sure that mechanisms and strategies such as institutional and legal reforms are put in place to prevent re-occurrence of violations against women. “This is also important in advancing women’s rights and empowerment and guarantee continuous support for women, particularly victims” she said. She concluded by soliciting for the commitment of the organizations in supporting the work of the TRRC.
The Coordinator of the Women’s Affairs Unit, Yadicon Njie Eribo took the participants through the mandate of the TRRC, the implemented activities and the 2020 work plan of the women’s affairs unit. She said the women’s affairs made a lot of effort to increase the participation of work in the TRRC process by conducting women’s dialogues and women’s listen circles to sensitize women and create platforms for women to talk about their experiences, their expectations and perceptions about the TRRC.
Mr. Fallu Sow, the head of the Network Against Gender Based Violence (NAGBV) gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the Civil Society Organizations. He described the ceremony as a historic occasion in the work of women led organization in their fights against SGBV and the advancement of women’s rights. This he said shows the commitment of the 10 organizations in protecting and empowering women. “This is a laudable initiative by the TRRC and we are pleased to be a part of it. We are committed to support the work of the TRRC and make sure it is sustained after the 2 year mandate of the TRRC” he added. He thanked the TRRC and its partner UNDP for coming up with this initiative, and thank the organizations for accepting the challenge of carry on the mandate of the TRRC.
TRRC Women’s Affairs Round table Engagement with Media Practitioners on Gender-Sensitive Reporting of Sexual and Gender Based Violence Cases at the TRRC.
The TRRC Women’s Affairs Unit with support from the United Nations Transitional Justice Project (UNTJ), held a 2-day engagement on the 7th and 8th of July with 9 editors and 11 news reporters from various print and electronic media houses across the country. The objectives of this convergence were primarily to ensure that the media reports correct information about women’s participation in the TRRC, and exhort media outlets and reporters to report stories of women who testify before the commission with a gender lens, so that by tactfully putting out these stories they do not re-victimize women who have already gone through human rights violations at the hands of officials of the former regime including the former president and other senior government officials.
Over the course of the two days, Gender concepts and SGBV under the mandate of the TRRC, existing domestic and international laws criminalizing Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) were discussed in detail. The mandate of the TRRC communications unit and Outreach Department which jointly are responsible for overseeing all publications and media relations of the TRRC was also highlighted. These include but are not limited to, creating audiovisual materials for publication and keeping the Commissions social media pages and website up to date.
They discussed various domestic and international laws beginning with the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia followed by the Criminal Code, the Sexual Offences Act, the Children’s Act of 2005 and the Women’s Act, 2010. Other international laws/ covenants like the CEDAW, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s rights and the rights of women in Africa were also discussed. This session was particularly enlightening as most of the reporters present were unfamiliar with the legal instruments protecting women.
The discussions also expanded on the support services available to victims. The journalists were also taken through reporting process at the TRRC from registration at the Victims’ Support Unit, through the psychosocial assessment and preparation and statement taking to making the decision on whether to have an Open/public or closed hearing.
During the discussions held over the course of the two days, the participants made several recommendations on how more journalists can be sensitized on issues of Sexual and Gender Based Violence reporting to help improve their practice and also how the TRRC can improve its relationship with the various print and electronic media houses across the country.
TRRC Victim Support Fund
THE CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT: Opening of the Fifteenth Session of TRRC hearings
by Dr. Lamin J. Sise
July 6, 2020
On Thursday, June 25, 2020 the TRRC concluded its fourteenth three-week session of public hearings. During that session, 21 witnesses appeared before the Commission. The total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission since the commencement of the public hearings on January 7, 2019 is now 241. These include 59 women, 44 perpetrators, alleged perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons, as well as four expert witnesses. Twenty five Gambian Diaspora witnesses also testified via video link.
On June 8, 2020 when we began the Fourteenth Session of the public hearings of the Commission, we indicated that, with the commencement of our institutional hearings, the session will focus on the Prison System, specifically on the violations and abuses of the human rights of the prisoners and other detainees held at the three prisons in The Gambia.The Commission called the following to testify: past and present prison officials and staff; current and past prisoners and detainees as well as their family members or relatives.
What emerged from the testimonies of these witnesses shocked the conscience of many Gambians. It was an outrage of extraordinary magnitude to hear the failures of the prison system and the violations and abuses of the human rights of prison inmates. It is clear from the evidence adduced before this Commission that the system utterly failed to address, inter alia, the following challenges:
- proper understanding by prison officials of the Prison Act that governs their institution,
- massive overcrowding in the facilities, especially the Remand Wing,
- poor quality food which many attributed to the cause of non-communicable diseases such as beriberi,
- theft by prison officers of food rations supplied to feed prison inmates,
- unlawful denial of access to and/or inadequate medical services for inmates with serious consequences and even death of prison inmates,
- poor and inhumane conditions of detention in the prison facilities,
- inadequate focus on mental health issues for prison inmates,
- unavailability of reform and rehabilitation programmes for inmates with the consequent effect of rendering the prison system as a mere warehouse to keep prisoners, and
- brutal torture and unlawful confinement practices, including unreasonably long detention of inmates in the Remand Wing.
Many of the above challenges have resulted in neglect and even death of inmates while in custody.
The Prison Service, like the rest of the country, was trapped in fear and incompetence during the twenty two years of the Jammeh era. For the greater part of that period, the highest academic qualification attained by prison officers was Secondary Four certificate. The deplorable conditions and violations and abuses committed in the prisons will, no doubt, be addressed in the final report of the Commission with recommendations on how to remedy the situation. The Prison Service must not be used as a source of self-gratification for senior prison officials, or turned into a torture facility that defeats the rehabilitative function of a correction system.
Furthermore, the Prison Service must not be used as an open access detention facility for political opponents and security officers. Any person detained at a Gambian prison must go through due process and be admitted for detention through the appropriate procedures. Both prison officials, prisoners and other detainees have rights, and those rights must be fully respected. The rules and regulations pertaining to the operation of the prisons must be adhered to strictly, and at all times.
The current session of the Commission’s public hearings opens today with the completion of testimony by Mr. David Colley, the former Director General of the Gambia Prison Service.
A brief reminder that when the public hearings of the TRRC were suspended in March due to the government rules in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission was hearing testimonies on the violations of the rights of road users by Yahya Jammeh’s convoys. The public hearings on that theme were not completed. The Commission will return to that theme and hear the remaining witnesses who were already scheduled to testify.
As we encountered during the Commission’s consideration of the themes on Sexual and Gender-based Violence and the former president’s witch hunting exercise, it has been equally challenging for the TRRC to get witnesses on the theme of Jammeh’s alternative HIV/AIDS treatment programme. This is understandable because of the social stigma associated with all these three issues.
I am happy to report that the Commission’s Reconciliation Committee with the assistance of the Secretariat’s Reconciliation Unit, facilitated a reconciliation event on July 1, 2020 between several witnesses – both victims and perpetrators – who have appeared before the Commission. The event underscores the TRRC’s commitment to not only discover the human rights violations that happened here during our mandate period, but also to the promotion of reconciliation in our country. We thank all who participated in that reconciliation event and hope that they have found a measure of peace and closure from the exercise.
Finally, as we begin another session of public hearings, we seek the public’s continued support and understanding as we go through this difficult journey of truth-seeking with regard to the human rights violations and abuses that occurred in our country from July 1994 to January 2017.
Thank you all for your very kind attention.
TRRC facilitates Reconciliation
The TRRC on Wednesday 1st July 2020 organised a reconciliation exercise between victims of human rights violations and their perpetrators at its headquarters in Kololi. The victims included Omar A Jallow who was tortured in 1996 by Major Abubacarr Bah, Ensa Jesus Badgie who was imprisoned as a result of false testimony by a mile two inmate, Soriba Condeh and former prison inmate Fallu Ceesay, current inmates Lamin Jah and Soriba Condeh who were tortured by former prison wardens Ebrima Jammeh and Malang Tamba.
The TRRC facilitated the reconciliation exercise following requests by perpetrators to face their victims and apologise to them. Both sides have voluntarily agreed to participate in the reconciliation effort in order to promote healing.
TRRC Chairman, Dr. Lamin J. Sise pointed out that Reconciliation as a TRRC Mandate, and said the truth ought to be known in order to promote reconciliation and healing.
All the perpetrators expressed remorse for their actions and apologised to their victims. Omar A Jallow in his reaction assured Major Bah that he had forgiven him and would welcome him to his home like a family member. Ensa Jesus Badgie said he did not blame Soriba Condeh for lying in court because he was put under pressure to do so. Mr Badgie accepted the apology and expressed delight that he was vindicated finally.
Former prison inmate Fallu ceesay in his reaction denied the accusations against him and explained the incident that led to his torture. He however accepted apologies from the prison wardens. Prison inmates Lamin Jah and Soriba Conde both said they have forgiven Malang Tamba and Ebrima Jammeh.
Imam Ousainou Jallow, the Chairman of the Reconciliation Committee thanked perpetrators for coming out and apologised to victims. He added that truth telling is vital in the Commission’s work and urged witnesses coming before the Commission to be truthful.
Mrs Tabu sarr Njie, chief reconciliation officer at TRRC, coordinated the exercise and the event was attended by TRRC deputy Chair Mrs Adelaide Sosseh and Commissioner Jammeh Ceesay.
Establishment of the Victim Participation Support Fund
Following consultations with the TRRC, the Victim Participation Support Fund was established by the United Nations Peace building Fund, the UNDP and OHCHR through the Project “Support the capacity of the Government and national stakeholders to establish credible transitional justice processes and mechanisms that promote reconciliation and sustainable peace in The Gambia” (TJHR Project).The purpose of the Fund is to increase the participation of TRRC victims, their family members, witnesses and informants in TRRC processes, particularly statement-taking, investigations and hearings (in-camera and public), by remedying their immediate, basic, mobility, medical and protection needs.
The TRRC has distributed food items such as rice, cooking oil and onions to sixty-six victims across the country. Fifteen of the beneficiaries are victims of sexual and gender based violence funded by the Irish government through the UN peace building fund.
- Non-recurrent costs such as the procurement of items, inter alia, medical aids (glasses, hearing aids, walking sticks, wheelchairs, and other mobility aids)
- Provision of urgent, basic medical interventions, such as the cost of X-rays, MRI, CT-scans, and laboratory analysis,
- Provision of medication and payment of medical bills following an urgent, basic medical intervention (including short-term
- Provision of protective services for informants, victims, and witnesses Other types of support in line with the spirit of the Policy, deemed as reasonable and necessary to encourage victims to participate in the TRRC processes.
Victims, as defined under Section 2 of the TRRC Act, may apply for welfare support. Informants and witnesses may also apply for welfare support but only in relation to their protection.
To apply contact the following numbers: 7704988 0r 5086693
THE CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT: Opening of the Fourteenth Session of TRRC hearings
by Dr Lamin Sise
June 8, 2020
On 29th April 2020, on behalf of the Commissioners, I presented to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice the Interim Report of the Commission for transmittal to the President. It would be recalled that pursuant to Section 14 (4) (a) of the TRRC Act 2017, the Commission is required, after one year of its establishment, to submit to the President of the Republic of The Gambia, an interim report detailing its activities. The Interim Report accordingly, focused only on the activities of the TRRC during the first twelve months of its existence. It did not contain any findings or recommendations. These could be made in the final report of the Commission.
On Tuesday, March 18, 2020, only two days into our 13th session, the TRRC suspended its public hearings. During that session, only two witnesses appeared before the Commission. The total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission since the commencement of the public hearings on January 7, 2019 is now 219. The witnesses included 54 women, 40 perpetrators, alleged perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons, as well as some expert witnesses. Twenty-five Gambian Diaspora witnesses had also testified via video link.
At the commencement of the 13th session on 16 March 2020, we had announced that the Commission will focus on hearing evidence of unlawful attacks against road users by Jammeh’s convoys. We indicated that the remaining period of the session will be used to start the institutional hearings on the prison system and the violations of the rights of inmates and detainees.
Alas, that session could not be completed! The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic brought normal life to a grinding halt around the world. The Government of The Gambia, like other governments, instituted a lockdown and orderedobservance of measures relating to public gatherings, public health regulations and social distancing protocols. During the current session, we will pick up from where we stopped on the public hearings.
After nearly twelve weeks of observing the lockdown measures, and not knowing how long the state of emergency declared by the government would last, the Commission consulted and received guidance from the Minister of Justice with a view to exploring the possibility of the Commission resuming its public hearings.
We all agreed that the public hearings could resume with the understanding that the relevant public health regulations and social distancing norms will continue to be observed. As you can see looking around this hall, the TRRC has put in place such measures, and all staff have been instructed to adhere as much as possible to the required rules to ensure everyone’s safety.
While we self-isolated during the lockdown, the TRRC continued work, albeit in a limited way, on the interest of and matters relating to the victims of the Jammeh era. Our Victim Support and Research and Investigations units were particularly active during the lockdown, registering and collecting statements from witnesses, and offering continued support to those victims who need it. These victims could not and will not be forgotten! Some have come before the Commission to narrate their suffering at the hands of the agents of the State.
Their narratives symbolized the experience endured by many others who could not, for one reason or the other, come to testify before the Commission.
We are aware that the public is keenly interested in the Commission’s work on reparations. As of now, the TRRC continues to offer interim reparations in the form of livelihood support, medical and educational assistance and employment opportunities to victims. The Victim Support Unit is also working closely with the Reparations Committee to offer continued support to the victims currently in Turkey for medical treatment. Meanwhile, the Commission is doing all it can to ensure that work on the reparations rules and regulations is expedited and that monetary reparations are rolled out as soon as possible.
As at this point, we wish to remind the public that the main themes remaining on the Commission’s work plan include the following:
- the former president’s HIV/AIDS and other diseases alternative treatment programme
- enforced disappearances
- the case of the 44 Ghanaians and other West African migrants who were killed in The Gambia in July 2005
- the April 2016 incidents involving the NIA and resulting in the death in custody of UDP member Solo Sandeng
- institutional hearings on the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Judiciary, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)
- additional hearings on sexual and gender-based violence, and
- the Junglers (part two)
In view of the loss of two weeks of public hearings as a result of the lockdown, the Commission intends to conclude its public hearings during the last,rather than the first week of October 2020. As and when required, occasional public hearings may be convened as work proceeds on the final report.
Finally, the TRRC continues to call upon all victims and all witnesses with important information to please come forward and share their stories. While not all witnesses who give statements can testify, every statement collected will assist us in producing a true historical record of human rights violations that occurred in this country between July 1994 and January 2017.
As usual, we begin this 14th session by seeking the continued blessings and support of the public.
MEDIA ADVISORY: TRRC to Resume Hearings on 8th June, 2020
Following consultations with the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission will resume its public hearings on June 8, 2020. The decision to resume hearings was taken at a meeting of Commissioners, Secretariat staff and the Legal Unit on Monday, May 11. The Commission will pick up from where it stopped, with witnesses expected to testify on road attacks by Jammeh’s motorcade and conditions at Gambia’s prisons.
In light of the current State of Emergency and Covid-19 rules and regulations, seating arrangements for Commissioners and staff at the hearing hall will be reconfigured to accommodate social distancing and other precautionary measures. It is also anticipated that only a few family members or close relatives of witnesses will be allowed in the hall, in addition to essential TRRC support staff including interpreters, sound engineers, psychosocial and medical support workers, security officers and media personnel. While all media houses will still be able to cover the proceedings, measures will be put in place to ensure that social distancing and other Covid-19 rules are observed.
Arrangements will be made by the Secretariat’s Human Resources department to see how best all units of the Commission will operate full time while observing Covid-19 precautions. Unit heads will be advised to prepare rosters by which only a certain number of staff will be present at the office on any particular day while other staff will continue working from home.
The resumption of public hearings on June 8 is in accordance with the Commission’s schedule and work plan for 2020. It would also mean that the Commission will have lost only two weeks of hearings. In that case, public hearings will be projected to end during the last, rather than the first week of November 2020 as initially planned.
The TRRC suspended public hearings and face to face outreach activities on March 18 following the Gambia’s government’s announcement of an initial three-week suspension of public gatherings in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The end of that initial three-week period coincided with the beginning of the Commission’s Ramadan break. The Secretariat however remained partially open as staff came in as they could but mainly worked from home. The Research and Investigations, Victim Support, Finance, and Human Resources units continued their work without much interruption, while other units scaled down operations.
TRRC Submits Interim Report
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) on Wednesday, April 29 submitted its interim report to the Government. At a small ceremony held at the Ministry of Justice, TRRC Chair Dr. Lamin Sise handed over copies of the report to Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou for onward transmission to President Barrow.
Handing over the report, Dr. Sise apologized for the slight delay in submission but expressed delight that the Commission has now finished work on the interim report and will now focus on completing its mandate and working on the final report. He reminded the Minister that as per the provisions of the TRRC Act, the Interim Report just covers the Commission’s activities during its first year of existence and does not contain any recommendations. The recommendations will be part of the final report of the Commission.
Receiving the Interim Report on behalf of President Barrow, Minister Tambadou thanked Chairman Sise and all the Commissioners and staff of the TRRC for what he called the wonderful job they have done so far. The TRRC he said, “has set the bar so high as far as transitional justice and truth commissions are concerned around the world.” Minister Tambadou assured the TRRC team that he would duly transmit the report to the President and would do all he can to continue supporting the important work the Commission is doing.
In brief remarks, TRRC Executive Secretary Baba Galleh Jallow said the Commission is grateful for the continued support of the Gambia Government and the Justice Minister in particular, and especially for their non-interference in the work of the Commission. He said the fact that there is no government interference in the Commission’s work is particularly important because it safeguards the integrity of the TRRC process.
The brief handing over ceremony was attended by Mr. Hussein Thomasi, Special Adviser to the Justice Minster and TRRC Deputy Executive Secretary Musu Bakoto Sawo.
The Interim Report is available on the TRRC website (http://www.trrc.gm/…/04/TRRC-INTERIM-REPORT-Logo-Final.pdf) and Facebook page.
TRRC Suspends hearings due to Covid-19 Pandemic
In line with the Directive from the Office of the President regarding the Gambia Government’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) crisis in the country, the TRRC has suspended its public hearings and all outreach activities with effect from Wednesday, March 18, 2020. As the end of this three-week suspension will coincide with the beginning of the Commission’s Ramadan break, public hearings will not resume until after the end of the month of Ramadan, around the first week of June.
Outreach activities may resume when considered safe to do so. The Commission’s Secretariat will also be partially closed. Staff may choose to come to the offices but are highly encouraged to work from home for the three-week period. Depending on how things turn out at the end of the three weeks, the Secretariat may resume full operations or remain partially closed except for essential business for as long as considered necessary. The TRRC encourages all members of the public to please take all cautionary measures to avoid infection. May God bless and protect The Gambia and all Gambians and their families and loved ones everywhere.
THE CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT: Opening of the Thirteenth Session of Hearings
by Dr. Lamin J. Sise
March 16, 2020
On Thursday, March 5, 2020 the TRRC concluded its twelfth three-week session of public hearings which focused on the arbitrary arrest and detention of public servants and private persons. During that session, 14 witnesses appeared before the Commission. The total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission since the commencement of the public hearings on January 7, 2019 is now 217. The witnesses included 54 women, 40, alleged perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons, as well as some expert witnesses. Twenty-five Gambian Diaspora witnesses also testified via video link.
We begin the thirteenth session today which will end on Thursday, April 2. Approximately two weeks of this session will be focused on hearing evidence of unlawful attacks against of road users by Jammeh’s convoys. The remaining period will be used to commence the institutional hearing on the prison system and the violation of the rights of the inmates and detainees.
As we reached a few weeks ago the halfway mark of our two-year mandate, it is fitting and proper to remind the public the major themes we have covered so far and the ones remaining. From January 2019 to March 2020 the Commission, inter alia, held public hearings on the following:
- circumstances surrounding the July 22, 1994 coup,
- The November 11, 1994 incident,
- The June 1995 murder of former finance minister Ousman Koro Ceesay,
- The 1996 incident involving supporters of the opposition United Democratic Party and security forces at Denton Bridge,
- Crack down on the media and violations of human rights against journalists,
- The unlawful killing of students during the April 2000 student demonstrations,
- The violations and rights abuses carried out by the Junglers,
- Sexual and gender-based violence against women by Yahya Jammeh
- The 2009 presidential witch hunts,
- Attacks on religious freedoms, and
- Arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of public servants and private citizens.
The main themes remaining on the Commission’s work plan include:
- The former president’s HIV/AIDS and other diseases alternative treatment programme
- Enforced disappearances,
- The case of the 44 Ghanaians and other West African migrants who were killed in The Gambia in July 2005,
- The April 2016 incidents involving the NIA and resulting in the death in custody of UDP member Solo Sandeng,
- Institutional hearings on the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the Judiciary, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA),
- Additional hearings on sexual and gender-based violence, and
- The Junglers (part two) (including the attempted assassination of veteran lawyer Mr Ousman Sillah.
Under our work plan, the Commission intends to conclude its public hearings during the first week of October, 2020. The rest of the year will be devoted to preparation of the final report of the TRRC. As and when required, occasional public hearings may be convened.
The evidence adduced before the Commission during the above-mentioned public hearings shows gross human rights violations against the Gambian people. During the last session, we also heard the gruesome accounts of the decapitation and dismemberment of the bodies of detainees to be fed to crocodiles at Jammeh’s residence in Kanilai. These wanton acts of barbarity defied all standards of human decency and constituted gross violations of the rights of not just the victims, their families, but also those of all Gambians.
Since the TRRC’s public hearings began, the conscience of the nation is being repeatedly shocked by the revelations of sheer brutality meted out to victims. The revelations have also sparked a serious national conversation and soul-searching that seeks to understand just how such acts of barbarity could happen in this country.
As we journey further into this second and final year of our mandate, this Commission remains firmly committed to the pursuit of the truth without fear or favor, affection or ill will with regards to any individual or group of individuals.
We remain committed to the cause of the victims, to the welfare of our nation and to helping guarantee non-recurrence of the senseless violations and abuses that occurred in this country. It is in this spirit that the Commission wishes to further encourage all victims of human rights violations and all persons who have information that would be helpful to the Commission’s work to please come forward and share their stories.
While not every witness that gives a statement is guaranteed to testify in a public hearing, every statement received is a valuable addition to the historical record the Commission is mandated to establish. For the work that we do here at the TRRC, every voice matters.
I thank you all for your kind attention.
TRRC School Outreach Highlights
Outreach activities have always been a key component of the TRRC process, alongside the live hearings. The reason for this being that the TRRC process is not only meant to air confessions, but to learn from the stories that emerge, to hold discourses about it, share views about it and ultimately to resolve that l, NEVER AGAIN shall we allow the abuses of power that happened over the last 2 decades and half, to ever occur again. Since the youth will be the holders of positions of power in the future, special focus has been paid to them in our outreach activities.
JAMBURR COMMUNITY RECONCILE
The TRRC Reconciliation Unit on Tuesday 10th March, 2020 facilitated a Reconciliation dialogue between the Son of Former and late Alkalo of Jamburr and some elderswho have testified before the commission during the regional hearings conducted last year.The officer in charge of Farato Police station West Coast Region was invited to join the delegation.
The dialogue was held following a disagreement that occurred between the Families of the former Alkalo, the Imam and other elders of the community after their testimonies and ended up in at the Farato police station. The TRRC intervened and the matter was withdrawn by the elders to give peace and reconciliation a chance.
The two sides met at the TRRC premises and had a difficult and frank discussion over the issue, and the son, family and clan of the late Alkalo expressed remorse over the incident that left the community deeply divided. They presented cola nuts and apologised to the Imam and the elders. The Imam and the other elders who were offended in turn accepted the apology and agreed to reconcile and forge ahead for the social cohesion of the community of Jamburr.
The event took place in the presence of the TRRC Chairman Dr Lamin Sise, deputy Chairperson Adelaide Sosseh, Imam Ousainou Jallow who is the Chairman of the TRRC reconciliation committee and senior staff of TRRC. It was coordinated by the reconciliation unit of the TRRC
Engaging Out of School Youth
February 26th 2020
The TRRC outreach is currently in Basse engaging non-school going youths mainly. Discussing the TRRC’s mandate, it’s impact from their perspective, the significance of the process and the Never Again campaign. One consistent message from the engagement is that for too long young people, especially non school attending, have been sidelined from the national conversations, and as one youth put, “no nation that wants to develop should leave its youths behind”.
TRRC Attends Memorialisation/Exhibition Project "The Duty to Remember"
MEDIA ADVISORY: TRRC Executive Secretary Resigns from University Job
The Executive Secretary of the TRRC, Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow last week resigned from his teaching job at La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Until his resignation, Dr. Jallow was an assistant professor of African and World history at La Salle. Prior to joining the La Salle faculty in 2015, Dr. Jallow taught African history and was director of the African Studies Program at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
Upon his invitation to come home and serve as Executive Secretary of the TRRC back in the fall of 2017, Dr. Jallow sought and was granted a two-year leave of absence by La Salle University to enable him to take up the position. However, in a recent communication, the University explained that it would not be able to extend Dr. Jallow’s leave of absence beyond fall (September) 2020 when it expires.
Part of Dr. Jallow’s letter of resignation to La Salle University’s Dean of Arts and Sciences reads: “As per the terms of my leave of absence, I was supposed to return to La Salle University in fall 2020. However, due to the fact that my work here requires at least an additional year of service to The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, I will not be in a position to do so. For that reason, and because you have indicated in a recent email that my leave will not be extended . . . please allow me to tender my resignation from my teaching position at La Salle University’s Department of History and the School of Arts and Sciences with immediate effect. . . . Please also allow me to extend my very sincere gratitude to La Salle University and in particular my colleagues at the Department of History for all the kind support they have rendered me during my period at the University.”
Dr. Jallow says while he will miss La Salle University, he has no regrets at all over his resignation. “In the absence of an extension of my leave, there really is no other option for me. I can’t leave the TRRC to resume my teaching at La Salle at this point. I also perfectly understand that the university needs to move on with hiring another full time African history professor. And so I am happy to resign and concentrate on completing the national assignment entrusted to me to the best of my ability. No regrets at all.”
Swedish Ambassador visits TRRC
The ambassador of Sweden to the Gambia, Maria Leissner on Thursday visited the TRRC to familiarise herself with the work of the commission. The ambassador held a discussion with the Deputy Chairperson of the TRRC Mrs Adelaide Sosseh and the various unit heads of the commission’s secretariat. She was briefed on the work of the commission since its inception, current activities of the various units and the challenges the commission is faced with. Ambassador Leissner expressed delight and thanked the commission for its work, saying the international community is impressed with the work of the TRRC.
THE CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT: Opening of the Eleventh Session of Hearings
by Dr Lamin J. Cise
January 20, 2020
On Thursday, December 5, 2019, the TRRC concluded its 10th three-week session of public hearings. During that session, which focused on former president Jammeh’s witch hunts and saw the Commission’s first set of regional hearings conducted in the Greater Banjul Area, Jambur, Sibanor and Essau, 37 witnesses appeared before the Commission. The total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission since the commencement of the public hearings on January 7, 2019 is now 188. These include 51 women, 35 perpetrators, alleged perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons, and 23 Gambian Diaspora witnesses who testified via video link. In addition to the public hearings, one closed hearing and two protected witness hearings were held during 2019.
This 11th session of the public hearings, the first in 2020, begins today, January 20 and will end on Thursday, February 6.
The Commission had initially planned to start this year’s hearings with testimonies from victims of the former president’s alternative HIV/AIDS and other ailments treatment programme. However, due to circumstances beyond our control, this was not possible. The present session will therefore start with testimony from an expert witness as envisaged under the relevant provisions of the TRRC Act and the Commission’s Rules of Procedure. The expert will focus on the making of the Jammeh dictatorship. The session will then continue with testimonies on the violation of the rights of religious leaders – both Muslim and Christian – that happened under the previous regime. During the course of the session, and should the need arise, witnesses on other themes may be invited to testify before the Commission.
As we begin this 11th session of public hearings, we brace ourselves for yet another series of revelations of human rights violations and abuses perpetrated against the people of this country by the very government that was supposed to protect their lives and liberties. Since hearings started in January 2019, the Commission and indeed the Gambian people and all who have been following our proceedings heard the most horrendous violations of human rights and abuses.
From the extrajudicial killings of the November 11, 1994 victims, to the murder of Ousman Koro Ceesay, the murders of innocent people like Deyda Hydara, Haruna Jammeh, Marcie Jammeh, the April 2000 student victims, and the sexual violence meted out to several young women by none other than the custodians of the State. The graphic confessions of the Junglers almost made it imperative to wonder whether reason itself had gone mad in this country.
But nothing prepared us for the revelations of the 2009 witch hunts sponsored by the State. Anyone who watched and listened to the testimonies of the witch hunt victims is not likely to forget anytime soon or to outgrow the feeling of sadness that was generated by the senseless pain inflicted on those victims. During that dark and tragic episode of our nation’s history, hundreds of innocent men, women and even children were picked up at random by security forces accompanied by quack witch doctors, subjected to all manner of humiliating treatment, and forced to drink strange concoctions that instantly caused them to momentarily lose their senses, At least 39 people died as a result of taking the concoctions.
Up to this day, hundreds continue to struggle with seemingly intractable health conditions. And all this executed by our own security forces on the orders of the highest authority in the land, whose sacred duty it was to serve and protect the people.
It is perhaps common knowledge that only a fraction of the victims of the witch hunts gave statements to the TRRC or came forward to testify publicly. We believe that a significant number of victims chose not to come forward to testify. Many victims were dissuaded from giving statements or having family members testify on their behalf for fear of stigmatization that comes from being branded a witch in our culture and society. The abiding shame and pain that comes with such branding can only be imagined and may never be fully described even by the victims themselves simply because it defies description. Victims who testified before the Commission during our last session spoke of the extraordinary humiliation they suffered and continue to suffer since false allegations of witchcraft were leveled against them by agents of the state, ten years ago.
The devastating impact of the 2009 witch hunts on the survivors and their families calls for sober reflection by all Gambians. Indeed, considering the magnitude of the shame and pain suffered by these victims and their families on a day to day basis, we dare say that as a country we need to reform some of our cultural attitudes. The work ahead of us, as a Commission and as a country will not be easy. The path will be rocky and tear-filled and the challenges will be daunting.
But with determination and the use of reason, we can see the successful completion of this important national project and collectively move our country towards abiding peace, reconciliation, healing and well deserved justice for all victims of human rights violations in this country. We are certain that together as a nation, Gambians will successfully emerge from this painful process a stronger and better people who will never again allow their human rights and dignities to be violated with impunity.
The TRRC continues to encourage all victims of human rights violations and abuses to come forward and give statements to the Commission.
On that note, the TRRC continues to crave the support and blessings of all members of the public at home and abroad as we begin this 11th session of public hearings.
Thank you for your kind attention.
UNDP presents Equipment to TRRC
The UNDP today presented a state-of-the-art public address system, a fifteen-seater mini Van and communication equipment (worth eight million Dalasis) to the TRRC. The aim of the gesture is to enhance the work of the TRRC in order to improve public participation in the process. The presentation was received by TRRC Chairman, Dr. Lamin J. Sise, and was attended by Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Hon. Ba Tambadou and the UN Resident representative Ms Aissata De.
This intervention is a continuation of the support given to the Gambia’s transitional justice project by the UN OHCHR and the UNPBSO, through the UNDP traditional Justice Management Project.
The UN Resident Representative Ms Aissata De commended The Gambia government through the Justice Minister, for their non interference in the truth-seeking process. She also commended the entire Gambian public including the Diaspora for taking ownership of the process and committing financial support. This she said, will contribute to the creation of a new Gambia free from all forms of Human Rights violations.
The Justice Minister Hon. Ba Tambadou emphasized the Government’s commitment to its non-interference policy in the TRRC’s work. He iterated the government’s support, describing the TRRC as the most significant transitional justice project which continues to have a tremendous impact on the lives of ordinary Gambians despite the complexities and challenges that are inherently part of the process.
Haddy Dandeh Jabbie is the New Deputy Lead Counsel at the TRRC
The Ministry of Justice wishes to inform the general public that following the departure of Ms. Horeja Bala-Gaye as Deputy Lead Counsel of the TRRC, Mrs. Haddy Dandeh Jabbie has been appointed by the Attorney General as the new Deputy Lead Counsel.
Mrs. Haddy Dandeh Jabbie is a legal practitioner licensed to practice in The Gambia since 2001. She obtained her LLB (Bachelor of Law) at Bournemouth University and in 1998 she obtained her LLM (Master of Law) in the University of Westminster in England. In the year 2002, she obtained her degree of utter barrister from Sierra Leone Law School.
Mrs. Haddy Dandeh Jabbie is an experienced advocate of women and children’s rights. She is a human right advocate that is working relentlessly to empower the marginalized group in the society, that is the women, the disabled and children. Mrs. Jabbie is currently the president of the Female Lawyers’ Association Gambia (FLAG), a non-governmental organization that is aimed at uplifting and enhancing the legal status of women and children in The Gambia, through the domestication of major treaties, agreements and protocols relating to the rights of women and children. She has worked on various projects aimed at sensitizing and empowering women on the laws that affect them. Mrs. Jabbie has been involved in advocacy, sensitization campaigns and litigation on the rights of women, children and human rights in general.
Sharing the TRRC message at Fulbe africa 2019
Last night the TRRC took part in one of the biggest shows of social cohesion and coming together, the Fulbe Africa Cultural Festival which annually brings together the diverse members of one of the largest and most widespread ethnic groups in West Africa. It’s a show that celebrates commonalities above the small differences, with over 5,000 people from Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroun, The Gambia and beyond.
On the 7th edition of the festival, one of the best poets in The Gambia and dynamic Youth Empowerment Officer at the TRRC Youth & Children Unit, Cherno Gaye delivered a wonderful poetic performance that carried the message of unity, social Cohesion and the TRRC’s #NeverAgain campaign. He also encouraged potential victims of human rights violations of the past 22 years to come forward to file their case with the commission, not only to help the TRRC in establishing a true picture of the violations that happened here over the past 22 years but to also be eligible to be considered for reparations at the end of the TRRC truth seeking process.
TRRC Year One: Some Successes and Challenges
by Dr Baba Galleh Jallow, Executive Secretary
Friday, December 20, 2019
Finally the TRRC hearings are close to clocking one year and our outreach activities a little over a year. The Commission started operations shortly after the appointment of the Executive Secretary in February 2018. Several outreach activities were conducted between that period and the beginning of staff recruitment and the nomination and selection of commissioners towards the middle of the year. By October 2018 when the 11 Commissioners were sworn in, the TRRC was still grappling with some teething challenges but more or less ready to start holding public hearings as it did on January 7, 2019. We are happy to report that despite some challenges here and there, both the hearings and the outreach activities of the TRRC have registered remarkable success in the Commission’s first year of operations.
On Thursday, December 5, 2019, the TRRC concluded its 10th three-week session of public hearings since January 7, 2019. During that session, which focused on former president Jammeh’s witch hunts and aw the Commission’s first set of regional hearings conducted in the Greater Banjul Area, Jambur, Sibanor and Essau, 37 witnesses appeared before the Commission, bringing the total number of witnesses appearing before the Commission so far to 188, including 51 women, 35 perpetrators, alleged perpetrators and adversely mentioned persons, and 23 Gambian Diaspora witnesses who testified via video link. One closed hearing and two protected witness hearings were held during this period. The 11th session of hearings and the first for 2020 is scheduled to begin on Monday, January 20 and will focus on the former president’s alternative treatment programme during which the rights of several patients were violated.
Over the past twelve months the TRRC has covered a number of important themes on its work plan. These include circumstances surrounding the July 22, 1994 coup and its immediate aftermath, the November 11, 1994 incident, the January 1995 arrest and detention of former AFPRC members Sanna Sabally and Sadibou Haidara, the June 1995 murder of former finance minister Ousman Koro Ceesay, the 1996 incident involving supporters of the opposition United Democratic Party and security forces at Denton Bridge, crack down on the media and violations of human rights against journalists, the activities of The Junglers, some cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women, the April 2000 student demonstrations, arbitrary arrests, detentions and tortures, and the 2009 presidential witch hunts in which hundreds of people were forced to drink dangerous concoctions.
Over the coming year, the Commission will hold hearings on the former president’s fake alternative treatment programme, enforced disappearances, the case of the 44 Ghanaians and other West African migrants who were killed in The Gambia in July 2005, and the April 2016 incidents involving the NIA and resulting in the death in custody of UDP member Solo Sandeng. The Commission will also hold institutional hearings on the National Intelligence Agency (NIA, now State Intelligence Services), the Judiciary, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), and the prisons. Other cases of human rights violations including some from past themes will continue to be investigated and witnesses heard as necessary.
The evidence that has come out of witness testimonies since January 7, 2019 shows that there were widespread human rights violations in The Gambia under the Jammeh regime. From both victims and perpetrators, we have learnt of arbitrary arrests, detentions, horrible prison conditions, tortures, killings, sexual abuses, and the incomprehensible practice of accusing innocent people of witch craft, subjecting them to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, forcing them to drink health-destroying concoctions, and subjecting them and their families to a life of stigma and public ridicule. The extent of the human rights violations that occurred in this country defy comprehension and, we are confident, has cemented a determination in Gambians to never again allow their rights and dignities to be trampled with impunity by the state. In that regard, we are glad to note that our Never Again campaign has registered noticeable impact on The Gambia’s national consciousness, however modest.
From the very start, the TRRC has operated on the principle that the ultimate rationale for its establishment and the establishment of all truth commissions is to prevent a recurrence of human rights violations that happened in the past. The TRRC also operated on the conviction, based on verifiable evidence, that truth commission reports and recommendations alone do not necessarily prevent recurrence. For that reason, the TRRC adopted an operational strategy that allowed the commission to investigate the past and create an impartial historical record of human rights violations with a view to making recommendations to the government at the end of its mandate, while at the same time conducting outreach activities that address those causes and enablers of dictatorship and political impunity that lie outside of any institutional, administrative and legal reforms that the Commission may recommend in its final report. So that while the Commission’s public hearings were ongoing, various units of the TRRC secretariat were engaged in outreach activities across the country that sought to involve everyone in a national conversation on the causes of dictatorship and how best to prevent recurrence through a proper understanding of the proper relationship between state and society.
In line with our dual process approach to the work of truth commissions with hearings on one hand and outreach activities on the other, TRRC units have conducted close to one hundred town hall meetings, village dialogues, women’s and men’s listening circles, and school visits across the country since October 2018. In essence, the TRRC has consistently worked as a Janus-faced commission that, while investigating and recording past human rights violations, has its sights firmly set on helping build a Gambia in which citizens are empowered enough to hold their government responsible and to say no to any signs of dictatorship or human rights violations.
The TRRC is lucky to be one of very few truth commissions in the world to be given the power to grant reparations to victims. Most truth commissions can only recommend reparations; and because truth commission recommendations especially on reparations are generally not famous for being implemented, victims in many countries do not often get reparations long after their truth commission processes end. The Gambia’s TRRC is proving an exception to that rule. The fact that the TRRC Act grants the Commission power to grant reparations meant that we could institute an interim reparations program through which a growing number of victims are getting access to medical attention as well as employment and educational opportunities, and some livelihood support. Early this week, Yusupha Mbye, Oumie Jagne and Abdou Karim Jammeh – three victims of the April 2000 student demonstrations – and Nogoi Njie – a victim of the April 2016 incident travelled to Turkey for free medical treatment. They are accompanied by two TRRC staff and a volunteer. The escorts are Victim Support Officer Alieu Senghore, himself a victim of the April 2000 student demonstrations, Assistant Victim Support Coordinator Samba Touray, and Jula Sonko, a volunteer escort for the female victims. This is the TRRC’s first major breakthrough in facilitating access to overseas medical treatment for victims since the Ministry of Health established a medical board at the Commission’s request back in November 2018. As of December 2019, the medical board has seen 50 victims referred to them by the TRRC. Meanwhile, the TRRC’s Victim Support Unit continues to offer medical assistance and psychosocial support to several victims in The Gambia. So far, the Victim Support Unit has registered 941 victims of various kinds of human rights violations. It is anticipated that more victims will benefit from both local and overseas medical treatment in the coming year.
The road to December 2019 was not free of challenges for the TRRC. Yes, the work has progressed smoothly and we certainly have registered a number of admittedly significant successes. Overall, the TRRC has emerged as a new model of truth commissions that other countries are likely to emulate now and in the future. That said, the Commission has had to grapple with many challenges, including the difficulty of convincing some witnesses, especially female victims, to come forward and give statements or testify. In some cases, people are yet to understand that giving statements does not necessarily mean they have to testify, or that they could always testify behind closed doors, or as protected witnesses whose identities will not be made public. Fear of retaliation, stigma, ridicule or ethnic and family pressure has kept witnesses from coming forward, and this is a challenge that the TRRC is resolved to continue working on in the New Year. As is probably common knowledge by now, there are segments of Gambian society that are still reluctant to participate in the TRRC process for any number of reasons. The Commission will continue engaging all Gambians with a view to solicit their participation in this collective national conversation and healing process.
The TRRC is also having to deal with the challenge of female witness shaming and threatening. Some women who have publicly testified before the Commission have been objects of ridicule, insults and even threats from some members of the public. This unfortunate situation has the effect of discouraging all but the most courageous female victims from coming forward and sharing their stories with the Gambian public or even submitting statements to the Commission. This is an area in which the support of the media and civil society organizations is highly welcome. Civil society organizations with capacity in the areas of social work are also welcome to reach out and help our Victim Support Unit in managing the large number of victims they already cater for.
While the Gambia Government has contributed D50 million to the TRRC’s reparations fund, this is far from enough to cover the Commission’s reparations obligations. Individual Gambians, civil society organizations and members of the International Community are therefore encouraged to explore ways and means of supporting the TRRC’s fund raising efforts in order to complement Government and the public’s contributions to provide reparations to hundreds of victims of human rights violations. We are hopeful that the Government will fulfill its promise to make further contributions to the TRRC reparations fund in 2020.
At this point, we wish to take this opportunity to thank the Gambian people for their support of and their engagement with the TRRC’s hearings and outreach activities. While some of the testimonies are hard to watch, they have offered Gambians an opportunity to see what went wrong in the past and to discuss ways and means of making sure that it never happens again. We call on all Gambians to continue following our proceedings and contributing to both the national conversations and to the welfare of the victims as they have done this past year.
We also wish to express our gratitude to the Ministry of Justice for their unflinching support for the TRRC. Justice minister Ba Tambadou has consistently shown genuine interest in our work and has done all he can to ensure that we get the funds needed to run this institution. Thanks too to the Ministry of Health, and Dr. Lamin Samateh himself for their support of our work at all times. This ministry has been instrumental in facilitating our interactions with the Turkish Embassy here and the eventual travel to Turkey of four victims for medical treatment. In that same vein, we are most grateful to Dr. Charles Roberts and members of the Medical Board for their continued diligent service to the victims. We also take this opportunity to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for facilitating all of the TRRC’s international activities. Gambians embassies have supported the Commission’s Diaspora engagements in Europe and the United States, and have transmitted notices of adverse mention to alleged perpetrators living in various countries around the world. The Gambian embassy staff in Turkey received the victims who just travelled to that country, helped them settle down, and facilitated their access to the hospitals in which they are to be treated.
Finally, we wish to express our gratitude to the international community for their unflinching support to the TRRC. Many foreign missions in The Gambia have offered various forms of support to the Commission since its inception and to them we say, thank you. We are particularly grateful for the support of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office, the UN system in the country, and the UNDP Gambia office. We can safely say that without the support of the PBSO and the UNDP transitional justice project in The Gambia, it would have been impossible to register the kind of success that the TRRC has registered so far. Staff of the UNDP transitional justice project in the persons of Julien Attakla, Awa Peters, Ida Persson, Angelic Mendy and others have consistently gone above and beyond to support the work of the TRRC. To all of them we say thank you.
Last but by no means the least, we want to register our profound gratitude to the media and all journalists who have covered aspects of the TRRC’s work from the beginning. Our media partners QTV, GRTS, EyeAfrica TV and all other national and international media and journalists have rendered the Gambian people tremendous service by their consistent and professional coverage of our hearings and outreach activities. We are gratified that so far, we have not had cause to complain about the nature of the coverage from journalists. We feel that journalists have more or less displayed a high level of professionalism in covering the TRRC and we say a big thank you to all of you.
Thank you all for your kind attention.
Following the resignation of Alagie Saidy-Barrow, his former deputy Abdou A. Manneh has been promoted to the position of Director of Research and Investigations for the TRRC. Mr. Manneh is a police superintendent who has been on secondment to the TRRC since his appointment as an investigator under the Research and Investigations Unit in September 2018. Manneh became deputy director following the departure of Barrow’s former deputy Mansour Jobe, who is now with the Human Rights Commission. Manneh’s deputy is Jally Senghore, also a senior police officer on secondment to the TRRC. Both appointments take effect on January 1, 2020.
The TRRC’s new research director holds a Masters degree in Security Strategies and Management from the Institute of Security Sciences at the Turkish National Policy Academy in Ankara, and a Bachelor of Laws (LLB Honors) from the University of The Gambia Law School. He was called to the Gambian Bar in January 2015 and enrolled as a qualified legal practitioner in October 2016. As a Police Superintendent, Manneh previously worked under the Prosecutions and Legal Affairs Unit of the Gambia Police Force and contributed to drafting the new Gambia Police Force strategic plan for 2018-2023 as well as the Gambia National Security Policy. He has also served as part-time lecturer in Constitutional Law, Contract Law, the Gambia Legal System, Criminal Procedure and Employment Law at the Gambia Technical Training Institute and the West African Insurance Institute respectively. At the time of his appointment as investigator for the TRRC in September 2018, Manneh was already a member of The Gambia’s Technical Committee on Transitional Justice. He was part of the study tour delegation that went to South Africa prior to the passing of the TRRC Act.
Obviously, Abdou is having to fill very big shoes as a replacement for Alagie Barrow. But I have no doubt that he and his team will successfully rise to the challenges ahead and do an excellent job,” said TRRC Executive Secretary Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow. Former director Barrow’s departure from the Commission has raised some concerns that the Research and Investigations Unit will not perform well. However, Dr. Jallow is confident that Barrow’s departure will not prevent the team from doing its work because that is precisely what Barrow trained them to be able to do all along. Dr. Jallow also announced that Alagie Barrow is staying on the TRRC team as Adviser to the Research and Investigations Unit. “We are happy that he is staying on to assist in an advisory capacity,” he said. “He’s going and he’s not going. So we are good.”
Women supported by ICTJ submit a report on their experiences of dictatorship to TRRC
A group of Women from Sintet, Janjanbureh and Basse respectively on Monday 16th December, 2019 presented a report on Women’s Experiences of Dictatorship in the Gambia to the TRRC.
The report would form part of the records of the Truth Commission for the fact that not all women are willing to come out and narrate their ordeals, especially on Sexual and Gender Base Violence (SGBV).
Since the TRRC started work in January, 2018, out of 188 witnesses that participated in the public hearings, only 48 are women. In several other countries, women’s groups have made official submissions to Truth Commissions on behalf of particular women to help them share their experiences, particularly in contexts where they were not comfortable sharing them publicly.
In order to improve the participation of women in the truth seeking process of the Gambia while protecting them from stigmatization, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) collaborated with women support groups and formulated the report.
Speaking at the presentation ceremony, Didier Gbery, Head of Programs at ICTJ stated that his office is very pleased to support and accompany the women of Sintet, Janjanbureh and Basse as they submit to the TRRC a report presenting their individual and collective experiences during the 22 years of dictatorship in the Gambia.
He said The Gambia is built on democratic principles, respect for human rights and mindful of the obligation to ensure the inclusion and participation of women in transitional justice processes.
Since the inception of this project, he disclosed that ICTJ held consultations with civil society organizations working on gender and women’s groups, wherein challenges were highlighted and alternative measures to strengthen women’s participation in the truth-seeking process were recommended.
The ICTJ representative highlighted that during the consultations process, the women suggested establishment of additional, alternative and secure channels that will allow them to share their experiences, without exposing them to the psychological and sociological risks of such participation.
Mrs. Adelaide Sosseh, Deputy Chairperson of the TRRC, in her speech highlighted some of the major recommendations contained in the report and said the document would be useful to the TRRC.
The Deputy Executive Secretary of the TRRC, Musu Bakoto Sawo explained how women were stigmatized following their testimonies at the TRRC. However, she said the TRRC has mechanisms for women to come out and narrate their stories without any hindrance. Mrs. Sawo further urged the public to accept and believe in the stories given by women saying women had suffered a lot not only on Sexual violence but also on the witch-hunting exercise. She said since the TRRC started its work, majority of the women did not come out because of the stigma, culture of silence among others and appealed to other women to emulate those that already appeared before the Commission and shared their stories.
Mrs. Yadicon Njie Eribo, Women Affairs Coordinator at the TRRC, said violence on women did not start in 1994, neither did it end in 2017. However, she thanked the women for their collaborations to ensure that some of their experiences are presented to the Commission.
Other speakers included women’s representatives Penda S. Bah and Mary Sallah who both thanked the ICTJ and the TRRC for their support.
Four Victims Sent for Overseas Treatment in Turkey
Four victims of human rights violations who have testified before the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission are set to leave for overseas treatment. Abdou Karim Jammeh, Yusupha Mbaye and Oumie Jagne, who suffered gunshot wounds during the students demonstration in April 2000, and Nogoi Njie who was arrested and detained as a result of the 2016 protest will leave for Turkey on Monday. The victims will be accompanied by three escorts.
The free medical treatment is offered by the government of Turkey as part of the annual twenty five free medical treatments it grants the Gambia. The Turkish ambassador to the Gambia Ismail Sefa Yuceer, at a presentation ceremony at TRRC, promised Turkey’s continuous support in providing free medical treatments to Gambian annually. He noted that the victims suffered tremendously and says his government considers the support sacred.
The Gambia Ports authority sponsored three air tickets and Papa Yusupha Njie of Unique Solutions sponsored two air tickets. The TRRC provided two air tickets and paid the daily sustenance allowances to victims and their escorts.
In her speech, the deputy chair of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations commission, Mrs Adelaide Sosseh, who is also the chairperson of the Reparations Committee expressed delight at having succeeded in sending the victims for overseas medical treatment, and thanked GPA and Unique Solutions for their support. She said the TRRC contribution is from the fifty million dalasi the Gambia government provided for reparations. Mrs Sosseh also acknowledged support giving to victims by Gambians home and abroad and encouraged others to support the victims.
Other speakers included Dr Baba Galleh Jallow, TRRC Executive Secretary, Mr Ousman Jobarteh, Managing Director of the Gambia Ports Authority, and Baba Hydara, Chairman of the board of directors of the victims centre. The ceremony was also attended by TRRC chairman Dr Lamin Sise.
Women’s Experiences of Dictatorship in the Gambia A Submission by Women from Sintet, Janjanbureh, and Basse to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission
The objective of the submission, and the online promotion of the submission, is to bring forward women’s voices to shed light on the violations they have suffered under Jammeh’s dictatorship and the enduring impact the violations continue to have on their lives and the lives of their families.
- Present the collective submission of women from West Coast Region (Sintet), Central River Region-South (Janjanbureh), and Upper River Region (Basse) to the general public and to the TRRC.
- Raise public awareness on: the full range of violations affecting women, the enduring and multidimensional impact of those violations, and women’s recommendations for how to address and prevent these violations.
- Enhance the participation of women in the truth-seeking process.
Date: December 16, 2019
Location: TRRC Secretariat in Kotu
A group of women’s representatives will present the report directly to the TRRC and the public; the event will also include remarks by the TRRC, ICTJ, and the Gender Platform, and performances by Lala Touray, Awa Bling, and Kaneleng.
TRRC Women's Unit Conducts Outreach in Rural Gambia
TRRC Women’s Affairs Unit is currently in Farafenni to encourage the community to take action in their communities, increase awareness about the negative consequences of violence against women and girls, and to particularly talk about the theme #StandAgainstRape.
The 16 days of activism is annually commemorated globally and kicks off from 25th November which is International day for the Elimination of all kinds of violence Against Women to 10th December, Human Rights Day. The 2019 theme is ‘Orange the World; Generation Equality stands against Rape!’
The 16 days of activism is a campaign that serves to shed light on the challenges women face but also to galvanize efforts, share knowledge, innovative approaches, raise awareness and call on various governments to prioritize the protection of women and girls and to fulfill promises made along those lines.
Civil Society Organizations, Government and individuals have often rolled out events and activities during this period with the goal of putting an end to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). #16DaysOfActivism #GenerationEquality #StandAgainstRape.
TRRC Regional Hearings in Essau
Sibanor School Head girl writes to the TRRC
The head girl of Sibanor Upper Basic and Senior Secondary School in Foni has written to the TRRC expressing appreciation for the opportunity to attend the Commission’s public hearings held in the town from 25th – 28th November, 2019 and learn some valuable lessons. In a letter dated 28th November and addressed to TRRC Chair Dr. Lamin Sise, head girl Kumba Sanneh also expressed her fellow students’ optimism that the truth being revealed through the Commission’s work “will surely encourage healing, reconciliation and reparations in order to develop our beloved country, The Gambia, into a well-coordinated society.”
Below is the full text of the head girl’s letter which Chairman Sise read out during a short break in the Commission’s proceedings in Sibanor on Thursday, 28th November.
On behalf of the students and school administration of Sibanor Upper Basic and Senior Secondary School, we would like to express our profound gratitude to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission’s (TRRC) Chair for allowing the students to attend the TRRC proceedings held in Sibanor from Monday the 25th to Thursday the 28th November 2019.
We are sure that the very existence of the TRRC is to dig out the human rights violations committed by the former regime. We are really optimistic that if the truth is revealed, it will surely encourage healing, reconciliation and reparations in order to develop our beloved country, The Gambia, into a well-coordinated society where the past evils will be forgiven and forgotten for good.
The outreach work of the TRRC in Sibanor gives the students the opportunity to interact with learned and respectable Commissioners. We are extremely happy to receive your wise words of inspirational advice that the TRRC findings will not only serve as a learning source but also a turning point for the young generation as they are the future leaders of this country, The Gambia.
Kumba Sanneh (Head Girl).
TRRC Begins Regional Hearings in Sibanor
TRRC Meets UN Special Rapporteur
On the 22nd November 2019, the Chairman of the TRRC, the Executive Secretary and heads of various units met with Mr. Fabian Salvioli, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparations and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence. The meeting was part of a monitoring exercise by the UN on the Transitional Justice process in the Gambia.
Mr Salvioli said the UN particularly his office, is closely following developments in the Gambia’s Truth Commission and TJ process. He said that the TRRC has shouldered a great responsibility not only to the Gambia but to the world and must be commended for the way it has conducted its work so far, despite the traumatising nature of the work. However, he said there is always room for improvement and therefore raised a number of issues which he believed should be borne in mind.
Mr Salvioli said based on his direct engagement with some victims, he believes more efforts should be made to reach out to more victims as some are still unwilling or feel intimidated to come forward with their stories. This, he said, may be because they do not fully understand the nature of the process well or the confidentiality and security measures that are in place to protect them. Mr Salvioli therefore proposed that more decentralised hearings such as was done in Jambur and Sibanor should be utilised to reach more victims. He also suggested that home visits can be a good follow up measure to make victims feel better about paRticipating the process.
Mr Salvioli also advised based on experience from his own home country (Argentina), that simply unearthing human rights violations will not often enough> He said a large enough number of witnesses must also be reached in order to have a true picture of the scale of violence. This he said, not only helps in prosecutions (especially in charges of crimes such as against humanity), but also helps to avoid sympathisers of dictatorship from playing down the severity of violations that occurred.
Mr Salvioli also underscored the necessity of emphatically addressing retaliations and intimidation of witnesses. He expressed confidence in the TRRC in this regard based on his observations from the hearings in Jambur. He highlighted the fact that some Junglers are out and about in communities as worrying to some victims and communities and therefore, the TRRC must be ensured that intimidation and retaliations are not tolerated in the least.
The Special Rapporteur further reminded the TRRC that the way it works should be consistent with international standards of accountability compatible with International Human Rights Law and treaties ratified by the Gambia. He said certain crimes notwithstanding that they are not crimes against humanity, cannot be afforded amnesty. He said crimes such as torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killing are of such gravity that they require accountability even when committed by individuals with direction from the state. Granting amnesty to certain violations therefore may violate international treaty agreements which the Gambia is signatory to and where those violations amount to crimes against humanity, may even result in the ICC bringing legal action against the Gambia.
Ending his statement, Mr Salvioli touched on the issue of reparations. He said that reparations should not be left to the end of the TRRC process as there are many, such as the victims of the witch-hunting exercise who need substantial psychosocial support and health care and such needs cannot wait. He concluded by reiterating his commendation to the TRRC, stating that the issues he pointed out were small reminders to improve what is already extraordinarily good work so far.
TRRC Chairman Dr Lamin Sise thanked the UN Special Rapporteur, saying that the the TRRC’s work is indeed a traumatising task to undertake. He said some of the testimonies ranging from extra-judicial killings to the Junglers killer squad, heinous sexual and gender-based violence to the incredible details of witch-hunting in the 21st century can leave staff with sleepless nights, but the commission is committed, determined and will pursue the fulfilment of its mandate to the letter.
Dr Sise assured the UN Special Rapporteur that the TRRC is cognisant of all the concerns he raised and is guided by a well-defined Act (the TRRC Act 2017) and well developed rules of procedure. He indicated that in terms of addressing victim concerns, outreach has been a key component and continues to enlighten the public on the TRRC process. Regarding reparations he pointed out that the Act provides for granting of urgent interim reparations which are on-going.
The Vice chairperson of the TRRC Adelaide Sosseh who also chairs the Reparations Committee, explained that the Reparations Committee has already developed a Reparations Policy and draft regulations which will be shared with stakeholders for input and adoption. She said that although the government has already given D50 million seed money for the reparations fund, these funds must wait for the Reparations Policy to be finalised so as to manage the process efficiently. However, she pointed out that interim reparations are ongoing and the Gambian diaspora has been particularly helpful in supporting the ongoing reparation efforts which the Victim Support Unit is already providing to victims.
Samba Touray Assistant Victim Support Co-ordinator explained that the VSU is the first point of contact for victims and while taking their bio-data, victims are also assessed for any immediate needs. Those with medical needs are sent to the medical Board which was set up the request of the TRRC to the Ministry of Health for assessment. Mr Touray reported that so far 47 people have been sent to the Medical Board, 12 of whom have been recommended for overseas treatment. Out of those 12, 9 are currently in the process of going to Turkey for treatment with the help of the Turkish Government. Mr Touray also said that victims are also forwarded to the Psychosocial Support Unit who assess them further to determine whether they or members of their families need Psychosocial support. He concluded by pointing out that the TRRC is also providing educational support to victims whose children need support towards education, as well as livelihood support for those who want to engage in economic activities to be able to provide for themselves. This livelihood support initiative is done in collaboration with the national Association of animal Breeders.
Deputy Lead Counsel Horejah Bala-Gaye explained that the Legal Team works closely with the Research & Investigations Unit as well as the Psychosocial Support Unit to ensure psychosocial support is available to all victims considering the difficult nature of testifying about human rights violations. In relation to confidentiality and giving relevant support to victims, Mrs Bala-Gaye highlighted that in dealing with the theme of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) for example, a small taskforce was set up to deal with victims considering the significance of confidentiality issues related to SGBV. Furthermore, she said it was also recognised that it would take longer to build trust with SGBV victims thus some victims were engaged months before the actual scheduled dates of hearing. Mrs Bala-Gaye pointed out that despite the capacity challenges in the PSS unit, psychosocial support is given even to those witnesses who live abroad and testify via video link. She concluded by pointing out that the TRRC is currently working on also rolling out a witness protection program following some capacity building trainings for staff thanks to the help of the ICC.
Mr Abdou Manneh, deputy director of research and Investigations talked about his Unit’s work, particularly highlighting efforts to address disappearances. He pointed out that from the investigations conducted by his unit, as well as testimony from witnesses particularly junglers, many leads have been developed regarding the fate of many disappeared persons. However, Mr Manneh highlighted lack of relevant forensic equipment as a hinderance in this area of the TRRC’s work despite the successful recovery of some victims’ remains.
Mr Essa Jallow, Communication specialist for the TRRC said that outreach activities have been an integral part of the process alongside the hearings. The focus has been on highlighting the importance of victims coming forward to help establish the truth of what happened and the scale of it, as well us explaining the different types of hearings victims can expect and which are in place ensure witness confidentiality and security.
The UN special rapporteur thanked the TRRC team for their feedback. He added a final point by reminding the Commission of the common misunderstanding relating to reconciliation, forgiveness and amnesty. He said that the misunderstandings mainly stemmed from the South African Commission where perpetrators were asked to apologise to the victims, and this was considered as reconciliation. He pointed out that victims can be re-victimised if they feel pressured or forced to forgive or to accept an apology. Mr Salvioli noted that reconciliation is a different notion from forgiveness and involves the state taking measures to regain public trust. Therefore, there cannot be reconciliation without justice. He said that impunity must not prevail, and the state must prosecute certain offenders even if they have been forgiven by individual victims.
The Executive Secretary acknowledged this observation, stating that the TRRC aims to provide justice to witnesses. However, he said that from historical experience, it is not conducive to have retributive justice simultaneously with the truth-seeking process. He pointed out that the truth-seeking mechanism, victim reparations and promoting non recurrence are all restorative and other forms of justice which are currently ongoing.
Mr Salvioli concluded the meeting by thanking the TRRC team again and assured them of the UN and his office’s continuous support.
TRRC Commissioners and Staff visit Scene Where Koro's burnt Body was found
TRRC Hearings in Jambur Commence
PRESS RELEASE: International Womens Day 2019
On this auspicious occasion of the international women’s day celebration, the Women Affaires Unit of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) joins the rest of the world to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women to the socio-economic development of the Gambia.
Annually, March 8 serves as a day to reflect on the success- stories and strives of women, the value of women in our societies and the impact of the efforts of women in the development of our societies, and as role models to our younger generation. Despite constituting more than 50% of The Gambia’s population, women remain under-represented in parliament, Boardrooms and in other high-level positions. This forms the crux of the 2019 International Women’s Day celebration theme #BalanceforBetter, advocating for more inclusion of women in all spheres of national development.
The Women’s Affairs Unit of the TRRC reaffirms its commitment to gender equality, advocating for equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for women to balance the gender roles and mainstreaming of women issues in all spheres of national development. Most importantly, to see an increase in the number of women witnesses and or victims, and to safeguard their interest and protection during the TRRC process.
The theme for 2019’s celebration is #BalanceforBetter, a call for gender balance and women empowerment. Women in the Gambia have been inspirational in their various fields of work given the limited opportunities they have. They have further been breaking barriers by engaging in blue collar jobs that were male dominated. This gives a clear indication of the potentials of women that when given the opportunity they will succeed in further increasing the economy of the country for the better. The patriarchal structure of our society limits the rights and opportunities of women. However, Gambian Women are known for their wisdom, strength and determination in independently working for a living, while at the same time being caregivers in their homes and communities.
Despite the achievements registered, the rights of women have been violated in various forms during the past two decades of dictatorship. From being accused of witchcraft, to being sexually abused by public officials and actors of the state, women experienced some of the worse human rights violations in The Gambia. The TRRC under its mandate, seeks to ascertain the truthful accounts of these violations and abuses and to provide appropriate support to promote healing. For the TRRC, inclusion of women in its process is paramount. We therefore take this opportunity to encourage women to come out and narrate their stories. Our doors shall remain open throughout this process.
The women’s unit at the TRRC, hereby wishes all the women of the Gambia a Happy international Women’s Day 2019.
Addressing SGBV in the TJ process
Fantanka in collaboration with TRRC, will conduct a 4 day training workshop (18th – 21st November) on SGBV as part of the TJ Process. The training will target the gender unit of The Gambia police force and community police officers as well as TRRC staff.
Preparing the Ground for Regional Hearings
Community Consultations Continue
The TRRC outreach on peace building and reconciliation (community consultations) funded by the UNTJ, and radio sensitization and community forum discussion funded by ACDHRS. Continuing the conversation on justice, national healing and reconciliation
TRRC UPDATE: The National Conversation Continues
By Baba Galleh Jallow
The TRRC concluded its second three-week session on February 28, 2019 with a hearing on circumstances surrounding the November 11, 1994 incident and the death of former AFPRC Finance minister Ousman Koro Ceesay in June 1995. During this session, the Commission heard testimonies from 12 witnesses, bringing to 25 the total number of witnesses heard since the beginning of our hearings on January 7, 2019. Six of these witnesses are resident in Europe and North America, three of whom testified via video conferencing while the other three were flown in by the TRRC to testify. Twenty of these witnesses are current or former officers of the Gambian security forces. The remaining five are civilians, including civil servants, former government ministers and one business man. All 25 witnesses were either invited or voluntarily offered to testify. And all 25 witnesses are male. We have had statements from female victims, but it has been tricky convincing some of them to testify. We hope to have our first female witness in the near future.
We are pleased to note that the revelations at the Commission’s hearings so far have generated serious public interest in our work and inspired in many Gambians a growing determination to ensure that never again shall we tolerate gross violations of our human rights or the emergence of a dictatorship in this country. The hearings have also inspired a robust conversation on what to do with persons adversely mentioned in witness testimonies. We wish to inform the general public that in line with the provisions of the TRRC Act, all persons adversely mentioned so far have been or will be served with notices of adverse mention. Persons who receive these notices may choose to voluntarily come forward and give their statements. They may also at some point either be invited, summoned or subpoenaed to appear if the Commission so decides.
During our third session, which will run from March 11 to 28, the Commission will continue hearing testimonies related to the November 11 incident and the death of Ousman Koro Ceesay. The Commission is interested in hearing more testimonies on how and why November 11 happened, who the main actors were, and ultimately, the whereabouts of those who disappeared during that incident. The Commission is also interested in hearing more testimonies about circumstances surrounding Koro Ceesay’s death. It is anticipated that at least one institutional hearing may happen during the third session.
We are happy to report that the TRRC now has two psychosocial support workers in our Victim Support Unit which, in collaboration with the Women’s Affairs Unit, the Research and Investigations Unit, and the Legal Team provide counselling to all witnesses before, during and after every hearing. Every witness meets several times with staff of each of these units in preparation for appearance before the Commission. Post-hearing sessions are also held with each witness and follow-up assessments conducted. At least one of our psychosocial support workers is always present during the hearings to offer whatever support a witness might need as they give their testimonies. Following a request to the Chief Fire and Rescue Officer, an ambulance and four paramedics have been assigned to the TRRC and are present in the hall during all hearings. The Victim Support Unit is also continuing to work closely with the Medical Board set up by the Ministry of Health at the request of the TRRC to review the cases of victims who need urgent medical attention. The Board continues to see victims even as they work on finalizing their reports for submission to the TRRC. Once we receive the reports, we will proceed to the next step of seeing how best the Commission can facilitate treatment for these victims either within or outside The Gambia. We are also compiling a list of other victims needing urgent medical attention who will be referred to the Board and hopefully other medical facilities for assistance. This victim support work is part of our ongoing interim reparations program. At this point, a comprehensive reparations policy for the TRRC has been drafted and is under review for final adoption by the Commission.
Meanwhile, we are happy to report that during January and February, 2019 as the hearings were happening at Dunes Resort, TRRC units were conducting several community outreach activities across the country with a view to continuing the national conversation on the mandate and work of the Commission, the causes and consequences of dictatorship, how best Gambians can make sure that it never happens in this country again, and how best to promote justice, healing, peace and reconciliation as key defining characteristics of our national character. In addition to seeking to empower Gambian communities, these outreach activities demonstrate the TRRC’s policy of inclusiveness. We believe that no Gambian voice should be left out of this national conversation, that each Gambian voice should be capable of expressing an informed opinion on issues of national interest, and that each Gambian voice should in fact express an informed opinion on issues of national interest. This concept was clearly articulated in our recently concluded National Youth Caravan funded by the British Embassy in Banjul and coordinated in association with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).
Having as its theme “Our Nation, Our Voice”, the National Youth Caravan ran from February 4 – 13, and used music, art, poetry and sports to engage communities in the national conversation on how best citizens may be empowered to prevent a recurrence of dictatorship and gross human rights violations in this country. Among the young artists who participated in the caravan were two of our own Youth Empowerment Officers – the poets Lala Touray and Cherno Gaye – as well as musicians Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo and Yabse. Joanna Rice of the ICTJ and Imran Darboe of the TRRC jointly facilitated and coordinated the event. The TRRC will continue to engage these young artists to promote the “Our Nation, Our Voice” message as part of our #NeverAgain campaign.
The TRRC’s Youth and Children’s Network Unit (YCNU) continues to ensure that young people are included and actively participate in this national conversation. Since we launched our school outreach program in November 2019, the unit has visited 32 senior secondary schools across the country and had conversations with at least 15, 000 school children on the #NeverAgain campaign. During its last school outreach in the North Bank, Central River and Upper River Regions which ran from February 14 to 18, the YCNU with support from the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies had three community radio programs at Kerewan, Brikamaba and Basse in which they engaged local communities in dialogue on the work and mandate of the TRRC and the #NeverAgain campaign.
On Wednesday January 16, the YCNU conducted an intergenerational town hall meeting with young people and community elders in Bansang. Participants in that townhall included two village alkalos, one ward councilor and one Village Development Committee chairman. The Bansang townhall enabled a fruitful conversation between and among young people and their community elders on the work of the TRRC and how best Gambians can prevent a recurrence of dictatorship and human rights violations in this country. On Wednesday, January 23, the unit in collaboration with the UNDP Transitional Justice team conducted a one-day consultative meeting with young artists and poets at the TRRC conference room to explore how best to involve them in our popular empowerment process. And on Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 January, the YCNU convened the first ever Gambian National Children’s Summit at the Rural Development Institute in Mansakonko. The summit attracted 70 participants from across the country, mostly children.
Our Reconciliation Unit has also been actively participating in and conducting outreach activities. These included a Focus Group Discussion at the Victims Centre on December 17, 2018; participation in the UTG Student Week activity on reconciliation, peacebuilding and social cohesion on January 5, 2019; a QTV program on reconciliation and peace on January 7; a social cohesion workshop organized by the Catholic Relief Services Gambia office from January 10 – 12; and a trauma resilience workshop from January 13 – 16. From January 23 to 25, the Reconciliation Unit in collaboration with the Women’s Affairs, Communications and Research and Investigations units conducted a series of village dialogues and community radio engagements in Farafenni, Soma, Kwinella, and Bwiam. This March the Reconciliation Unit plans to hold community dialogues in the Kanifing Municipal area as well as conduct baseline surveys on conflict analysis and peacebuilding dynamics in Gambian communities, among other activities.
Finally, we wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the very kind support of Pastor Forbes of Abiding Word Ministries “for God and for country!” In addition to his church’s monthly donation of 50 cartons of bottled water to the TRRC, Pastor Forbes is publicly and actively engaged in praying for and preaching peace, love, reconciliation, healing, confidence and #NeverAgain for The Gambia. Thank you Pastor, and Amen. Your optimism is uplifting. As we prepare for our third session of hearings, we continue to crave your kind support and prayers and the kind support and prayers of all members of the general public. God bless The Gambia.
Report on National Youth Caravan (4 - 13 February 2019) on Transitional Justice
by Cherno Gaye, Youth Empowerment Officer, TRRC
1. Executive summary
The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in partnership with the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) embarked on a ten-day nationwide youth caravan intended to use music, poetry and art as sensitization tools on transitional justice and nation-building. The theme of the caravan was “#OurNationOurVoice”. This was translated into Fula, Mandinka, Wollof and Jola and was made into a song by artists Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo and Yabse. The theme was also printed on the T-Shirts that the people on the caravan wore. Three regions were targeted: Upper River Region, (Basse and its surrounding villages), Central River Region (Janjanbureh and its surrounding villages) and North Bank Region (Farafenni and its surrounding villages).
n Monday 4th of February, the caravan left from Kombo to Basse with a group comprised of young people from different life pursuits and interests including activists, poets, musicians, and comedians. The ICTJ country rep (Joanna Rice), two staff from the TRRC (Cherno Gaye and Lala Touray of the Youth and Children’s Network Coordination Unit), three DJs and three drivers were also part of the team. On the 7th February the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) also joined the caravan along with the TRRC’s Community Outreach Coordinator Imran Darboe. The ACDHRS added a sports component to the caravan activities.
The caravan arrived at Basse on Monday evening, On Tuesday, Joanna Rice and a couple of other people went out to meet and inform the Alkalos of four villages around Basse that we intended to visit on Wednesday, of our presence and to seek their support in mobilizing villagers the next day. The rest of the team visited Nasir Senior Secondary School and St. George’s Senior Secondary School to engage students. In the evening, members of the caravan (Cherno Gaye, Lala Touray, Joanna Rice and Boobo Dimo) went to two of the community radios in Basse for an hour-long radio program at each station. The radio discussions centered around the mandate of the TRRC, the role of the ICTJ in the transitional justice process of the country, the importance of the #NeverAgain Campaign as well as the role of art, music, poetry and comedy in particular, in helping spread the message to all the people of this country.
On Wednesday the 6th of February the team visited four villages around Basse beginning with Gambisara, then to Sotuma Samba, Sotuma Sire and Alunghareh. The team distributed fliers, played music through the villages and held a dialogue session at each village’s Bantaba attended by the Alkalo, village elders, women and youth. Discussions focused on what the transitional justice process is about, why it is happening and what role the ordinary people have to play as far this process is concerned. The various institutions set up to see this process through were touched on, with the TRRC particularly cited as one of these fundamental institutions. The greater part of the discussion was centered on the role of the people in helping achieve the #NeverAgain Campaign, their rights and responsibilities as citizens and their duty to hold government accountable and protect democracy. After the opening statements in each village, villagers picked up the mike to voice out their thoughts and opinions, while some had questions. Most of the speakers expressed agreement with the fact that since power belongs to the people, it is important that we use it to our advantage, by selecting leaders who have our interest at heart. They also condemned in strong terms, tribalism and un-civil political divisions. The discussions were followed by the artists performing songs they recorded for the caravan.
On the 7th of February, ACDHRS and the outreach coordinator of the TRRC joined the caravan, adding sports to the activities of the tour. The sports component was funded by ACDHRS and a basketball and volleyball competition was organized at Basse Youth Center in the evening, which was then followed by a free concert by a combination of local artists and those on the caravan. Cherno Gaye and Lala Touray recited poems, Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo, Yabse and finally the Bright Stars Entertainment crew each performed their specially made songs on varied aspects of transitional justice. All in all, it was a successful event. Our message was sent through, the people were entertained and refreshed, and in the end, our stay in URR was a success.
On the 8th the caravan left Basse for Janjanbureh, where the same format as in Basse was repeated. The villages visited were Yorro Biri Kunda, Boraba and Sankuleh Kunda. We also had a radio program at Bansang on the 8th and on the final day we had a football match between Armitage Senior Secondary School and the Community followed by a concert.
The caravan then headed to Farafenni on the 11th. We visited the villages of Noo Kunda, Illiasa and Yallal. A football and volleyball match were organized on the final day, 13th, followed by a big concert on the night. The caravan left Farafenni to return to Kombo on Thursday Morning having completed a successful nationwide tour.
3. Places reached
The artists in the persons of Awa Bling, Boobo Dimo, Yabse, and the Bright Stars Crew were exceptionally instrumental in the mobilization and sensitization of the people in the communities visited. Their songs captured the entire purpose of the caravan tour, enabling us to reach the people in a way that speeches and discussions could never reach them. Bright Starts Entertainment Crew in particular were so influential during these ten days. We are convinced that the TRRC should engage them more often in its outreach activities.
The Caravan was able to meet at least 3000 people (conservative estimate) directly in three communities. Coupled with the social media hype of the tour and radio programs, the indirect reach should be over 6000 people.
Some communities have victims who need to be sensitized on why they should come forward as witnesses to the TRRC.
5. Recommendations from the visited communities
From the community engagements, a lot of points and questions were raised. It a nutshell, the following recommendations capture the general gist of the main points that were made by the communities.
- The transitional Justice institutions should warn government to consider the economic situation of the rural communities if they want a united Gambia
- People who have been wronged and denied things that were their rights should have restitution.
- For the TJ process to be a success, rural communities should not be treated as secondary citizens any longer
- Ways should be found in the TJ process, to separate the president or president’s name from groups like the “Green boys/Barrow Youth for national development” etc., on which national resources are sometimes spent
- There is no access to GRTS in some communities though they can get Senegalese stations. This should be addressed if citizens are expected to know what’s going on in the country and be aware of current affairs and civic education.
- Youth should do more engagements like the youth caravan, in order to make people more aware.
- More outreach on role of citizens in constitutional democracy is needed, particularly on what steps communities or individuals can take to address infringements to their constitutional rights.
- Police officers along the route and in the communities requested for TRRC/TJ T-shirts as they are also part of the Nation and can promote the objectives of the commission and TJ process.
WHEN CHILDREN CAN’T BE LEFT BEHIND
Knowing very well that children can’t be left behind when we look forward to a better future for the Gambia, we engage them at every stage of our work.The Youth and Children’s Unit of TRRC does not only go and meet students in their schools to talk to them about the commission, but also give them the opportunity to attend hearings to see for themselves how things work there.This is already making impact because they are giving amazing feedback as recommendations.
They are not too young to know how to commit themselves to that future Gambia we all want; free from all forms of violence and injustice. That future Gambia where no one will care about the background of the other but just being Gambian.They are not too young to learn from the past so that they can prevent the bad things of the past from repeating in the future.
PRESS RELEASE: TRRC Second Session
Statement by the Chair, Dr. Lamin J. Sise – Monday February 11, 2019
As we embark on this second session of the TRRC hearings, please allow us to update the public on the modest progress we have made so far.
In spite of a few technological hitches, our first session which focused on the July 1994 went very well. The Commission heard testimonies from 13 witnesses, most of them serving or retired officers of the Gambian security forces. The evidence that came from these testimonies puts the Commission in a good position to establish a reasonably accurate historical record of how and why the coup of July 22nd 1994 happened, who the main players were, and how institutional failures and policy lapses contributed to its success. A good picture also emerges of the nature and extent of human rights violations that occurred during and immediately after the July 22nd 1994 coup.
We are happy to announce, at this point, that the Commission will spend the first few days of this second session to hearing more testimonies directly relevant to July 22nd, 1994 coup.
As the public has already been informed, this second session will focus mainly on the events of November 11, 1994 when a number of soldiers lost their lives.Much like the July 22nd coup, the Commission is interested in hearing the truth of how and why November 11 happened, who the main actors were, and ultimately, the whereabouts of those who disappeared. We are confident that this session will yield invaluable insight into the true circumstances surrounding an event that, until now, is shrouded in mystery. We invite the general public to help us get to the bottom of what happened on November 11, 1994 in the name of justice and healing.
According to our work plan, this is the second of eight sessions scheduled for 2019. Each session will last for three weeks. One week of each month will be devoted to committee work and review of outreach activities that may not be possible during sittings. The public will be kept informed about future sessions.
As we begin this second session, we want to remind the general public that the TRRC is not a court of law. It is also not a witch hunting exercise against any individual or institution. Whatever we do, we do it in pursuit of the objectives of the Commission as mandated by the TRRC Act, namely to “create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights from July 1994 to January 2017, in order to … promote healing and reconciliation . . . respond to the needs of the victims . . . address impunity . . . prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered by making recommendations for the establishment of appropriate preventive mechanisms including institutional and legal reforms . . . establish and make known the fate or whereabouts of disappeared victims . . . provide victims an opportunity to relate their own accounts of the violations and abuses suffered; and . . . grant reparations to victims in appropriate cases.” We are and will remain resolutely committed to the attainment of these objectives throughout our mandate period. The TRRC is a victim-centered exercise. The Commission will always be guided by this principle.
We have noticed an emerging trend whereby persons who feel that they have been adversely mentioned or who possess some information about matters being testified about would go to the press to make statements that are aimed at contradicting the testimony made before the Commission.
The TRRC’s Provisional Rules of Procedure mandate that persons who have been adversely mentioned be afforded the opportunity to state their own side of the story by way of a written statement or personal appearance. These persons are being directly contacted by the Commission, served with Notices of Adverse Mention and formally invited to respond to the allegations. It is therefore not necessary for such individuals to attempt to litigate the issues in the public media.
Meanwhile members of the public and armed and security forces who have information or are victims of human rights violations during the mandate period are requested and strongly encouraged to come forward and submit complaints.
As always, we seek the prayers, support and understanding of the general public as we welcome you to this second session of the TRRC hearings.
Highlights of the Youth Caravan (ICTJ, TRRC and ACDHRS collaboration)
The TRRC, in collaboration with the international Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS) have been using music, art and sports to promote the transitional justice message to the youths of the Gambia. The project brought together artistes, poets and youth activists into a youth organisation called Our Nation Our Voice, which has been travelling around rural Gambia spreading the message. The group of young people have also organised sports competitions amongst youth of the communities they visited i order to promote community cohesion.
ICTJ/TRRC Youth Caravan touring hard to reach villages in rural Gambia
The youth caravan heading into Sankulay Kunda (CRR) to engage the community on transitional justice and democracy building in the Gambia.
TRRC holds a Children's Summit in Mansa Konko
The Youth and Children’s Unit are in Mansakonko for the first TRRC Children’s Summit. The opening ceremony was graced by the Governor, Area Council CEO, the Education Directorate as well as UNDP.
Continuing the Conversation on Justice, National Healing and Reconciliation
The TRRC outreach on peace building and reconciliation (community consultations) funded by the UNTJ, and radio sensitization and community forum discussion funded by ACDHRS.
TRRC Community Dialogue on Reconciliation
The TRRC has embarked on a four-day community sensitization in the West Coast and Lower River regions of The Gambia. The activity is funded by the United Nations Transitional Justice (UNTJ) project. During the course of the exercise, the Reconciliation Unit in collaboration with Research and Investigations, Communications, and Women Affairs units will hold community dialogues and radio shows in Bwiam, Soma and Kwenila. The focus is on:
- discussing how to operationalize the “Never Again campaign”
- holding dialogues on how Gambian communities can ensure that human rights violations do not reoccur in The Gambia<br< li=””></br<>
- encouraging and enabling communities to actively take part in TRRC processes<br< li=””></br<>
- initiating and promoting dialogue for citizens to share their opinions on peace building and unity.
The Outreach Activities that are Complimenting the TRRC Hearings
Alongside the TRRC hearings, we have also been continuing with our outreach activities aimed at engaging and understanding public expectations and questions, as well as promoting #NeverAgain particularly among youth. This time we went to Njaba Kunda, kerewan, Farafenni, Ngayen Sanjal, Niani, Kaur, Bansang, Basse, Diabugu and Fatoto. We also held a community forum in Bansang as well as Radio talk shows in Kerewan, Brikamaba and Basse.
TRRC Community outreach
The maiden hearing of the TRRC
On the road to establishing an accurate historical record of Human Rights violations of the last 22 years in The Gambia.
MEDIA ADVISORY: How and why the TRRC contracted with QTV?
Over the past several days the TRRC has had to manage a lot of controversy surrounding the award of a contract to QTV. One of the rumors making the rounds is that QTV was awarded the contract because Muhammed Jah has a brother working at the TRRC. Nothing is further from the truth. Muhammed Jah has no brother that we know of working at the TRRC. It is also not true that QTV is awarded the contract because Muhammed Jah and the TRRC Executive Secretary attended Fourah Bay College at the same time. Equally erroneous are suggestions that this is a deal designed to either steal or waste taxpayers’ money, or that there is some kind of bribery and corruption involved.
Contrary to these and other erroneous and wild speculations especially on social media, QTV is not granted exclusive coverage rights for the TRRC proceedings. The contract is for QTV to provide technical backup for the TRRC media team by providing the technical capacity to record, edit, and process the proceedings as necessary. The TRRC media team will supervise the process and distribute audio and video footage to all interested media houses to publish as they wish.
The primary reason for the TRRC’s seeking help with this work is that the commission does not currently have the resources to purchase and install its own video recording and processing equipment. Moreover, the award of the contract followed a rigorous and transparent bidding process, including solicitations of proposals and subsequent presentations by all interested media houses before members of the TRRC Contracts Committee and Communications Unit on December 21st, 2018 at the TRRC conference room.
At that meeting with the Contracts Committee and Communications Unit, presentations were made by every media houses that submitted a proposal. These were Impact Palace (EyeAfrica TV), QTV, Mediamatic (Paradise TV), GRTS, and State of Mic. Each of these media houses were expected to justify their individual charges and demonstrate how they meet the following requirements:
- Their capacity to record live proceedings and other activities of the Commission without hindrance
- Their capacity to facilitate video conferencing testimony for witnesses outside The Gambia.
- Their capacity to distort voices/images of witnesses who request anonymity.
- Their capacity to develop a mobile App for the TRRC so the public can access proceedings
After the departure of the media houses, the Contracts Committee and Communications Unit deliberated at length and decided that in terms of the TRRC’s needs, QTV and GRTS were the best qualified bidders. The balance tipped in favor of QTV largely because of the huge differences in their respective charges. QTV was asking for D150, 000 for a month’s filming irrespective of number of sittings or where the sittings are held. GRTS was asking for D30, 000 for a day’s filming, D200, 000 for a week’s filming, and D800, 000 for a month’s filming. Clearly, we cannot afford the kind of money GRTS is asking for. And so it should be obvious why we opted to go for QTV.
Let us reiterate at this point that what we did is essentially rent QTV’s equipment and personnel support to film our proceedings and facilitate their processing. Every interested media house, including QTV and GRTS, will receive footage and audio recordings of the hearings from the TRRC media team for airing and publishing as they deem fit. The TRRC owns the rights and will keep all recordings for our archives.
Meanwhile, journalists from all interested media houses – national and international – are currently being accredited to cover the proceedings. Journalists can sit in the hall and take notes but due to the potential sensitivity of some of the proceedings, only contracted partner cameras will be allowed in the hall to record the proceedings for later release to all media houses at the same time. Due to limited space capacity in the main hall, at least one large screen will be placed at the entrance to the hall so that journalists and others who may not fit inside can still watch the live proceedings.
Abiding Word Ministries Donate Water and Bible to TRRC
A delegation from Pastor Forbes’ Abiding Word Ministries on Saturday, January 5th presented fifty boxes of packaged drinking water to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission at its headquarters at Dunes Resort, Kololi. The water is meant for distribution to staff and audiences at the commission’s hearings. This is the first of a monthly donation the Church intends to make to the TRRC throughout the hearings. The Church also presented a copy of the Holy Bible for use during the hearings. Pastor Alhagie Tiyana who led the delegation said the donation was an expression of what the church wanted to do in support of the TRRC. He said it was Abiding Word Ministries’ desire to see the TRRC succeed.
Receiving the gifts on behalf of the commissioners and staff of the TRRC, Executive Secretary Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow thanked Abiding Word Ministries for their kind gesture and described the gift of water as very symbolic coming as it did just two days before hearings begin on Monday, January 7, at 10:00 a.m. Dr Jallow then took the delegation on a conducted tour of the TRRC’s main hall were the hearings will be held.
TRRC Promoting Reconciliation at the Fulbe Africa 2018
TRRC attends the UTG student week in Tendaba
Today we engaged in an interactive exchange session at the Students’ Week organized by UTG students at Tendaba. It was a fun and interesting discussion about the TRRC’s work.
Preparation for Hearings Continue
As the countdown continues towards the maiden hearing of the TRRC, the second dry run was held on thursday at the main Hall of the Commission’s headquarters at Dunes Resort in Kololi. The exercise was meant to test and confirm the readiness of the equipment and other logistics ahead of the first hearing scheduled for 7thJanuary, 2019 at 10 am.
Arrangements for the hearings on Monday are technically completed. These include seating arrangements, Audio visual recording, and interpretation facilities. Accreditation cards for journalist are expected to be completed by Friday. The mock trial was successfully conducted by the commission, led by the Chairman Dr. Lamin J. Sise and the lead counsel Mr. Essa Fall.
The hearings shall start with events leading up to the 1994 coup and marked the beginning of Jammeh’s reign. In that regard, the TRRC strongly encourages all witnesses and victims of this event to come forward and have their statements recorded for possible processing.It could be recalled that the Gambia establishes this commission through an act of the National Assembly in 2017, to investigate and establish the truth surrounding the human rights abuses of the 22 years of Jammeh’s reign.
MEDIA ADVISORY: TRRC pays courtesy call on medical board for victims
TRRC Chair Dr. Lamin Sise accompanied by Executive Secretary Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow on Wednesday, January 2nd paid a courtesy call on the medical board set up by the Ministry of Health to assist victims needing urgent medical attention. The board was set up in response to a request submitted by the TRRC to the Ministry of Health in November, 2018. The courtesy call offered an opportunity for the TRRC to express our profound gratitude to Board Chair Dr. Charles Roberts and other board members for their selfless and invaluable support to victims needing urgent medical attention.
The meeting also offered an opportunity for the board to give an update on the status of their work with victims and how far they have in preparing their reports and recommendations to the commission regarding what kinds of treatment victims need and where they could get such treatment. The TRRC was informed that one of the reports was almost finished and should be submitted in the near future. Meanwhile, the board is continuing to work with some of the victims.
Upon request by the TRRC, the board expressed their willingness to continue seeing victims outside of the initial two groups from April 10/11, 2000 and April/May 2016. It was agreed that the TRRC will seek logistical support for the board with a view to making it a viable long term support system for victims needing medical attention. Since the board was formed, the TRRC has received complaints and requests for medical support from victims outside these two groups. The TRRC will continue working closely with the board to facilitate access to medical support for victims who might need it after the commission’s mandate expires in two years.
Meanwhile, the TRRC reminds the general public that our first public hearing will start at 10:00 am on Monday, January 7 at Dunes Resort, Kololi. In readiness for the hearings, the TRRC successfully conducted a first dry run on Thursday, December 27, 2018 to test audio equipment and the general readiness of the Commission to conduct hearings. A second dry run is scheduled for Thursday, January 3, 2019. The TRRC communications unit is currently working on accreditation for journalists from various media houses. All public hearings of the commission are open to the public.
The TRRC also wishes to remind and encourage all witnesses and victims of human rights violations in 1994 to please come to Dunes Resort, Kololi and give their statements. The TRRC offers a modest reimbursement of transportation and other minor expenses to witnesses and victims travelling from other parts of the country to give their statements. Witnesses and victims unable to make the trip to Dunes Resort are encouraged to call 9348929 or 2949170 and arrangements will be made to take their statements. Anyone that has any information on 1994 Human Rights Violations that will be helpful to the TRRC is also encouraged to come to our offices or call the above two numbers. Witnesses and victims who wish to provide statements or other information related to 1994 violations are advised to do so as soon as possible in order not to miss the opportunity of doing so once the research and investigations focus moves away from 1994.
The TRRC continues to seek the nation’s support and blessings as we all embark upon this challenging task of truth-seeking, justice, and healing this New Year.
TRRC Press conference
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), on the 31st December, 2018, organised a Press Conference at its headquarters, Dunes Hotel.
The purpose of the press briefing was to explain to the Media and the general public about the preparations of the hearings scheduled to commence on the 7th January, 2019.
Speaking at the opening, Mr. Essa Jallow, Communications Specialist, TRRC, explained to reporters that arrangements for the hearings are ongoing; adding that a specific place would be provided to the Media for coverage. However, due to the capacity of the hall, space provided would be on first come first serve basis. “If a journalist is late and want to cover proceedings and the space provided is full, then he/she can use the public gallery,” he expounded.
On gathering information for the TRRC, he told pressmen that the Commission hired a media partner to record the entire proceedings of the commission in both Video and Audio which would be made available to the Media Houses for publication. Therefore no journalist or any member of the public is allowed to take videos, record or take pictures during and after commission hearings.
However, Journalists are only allowed to use their notepad to cover proceedings of the commission but could also approach the Communication Unit for more information such as videos, Audio and pictures respectively.
Essa Faal, Lead Counsel, told Journalists that hearings would be in chronological order and there are already are witnesses lined up for the hearing starting from July 1994. He therefore urged journalists to be responsible in their work. He said the commission may sometimes issue orders for the restriction of certain informations when the need arises. Therefore anyone who ignores the order would be in contempt of court.
Barrister Faal, further explained that the media is supposed to act responsibly in terms protecting the identity, safety and security of witnesses that may not want to have their identities revealed.
According to him, there would be Victims/perpetrators hearings, Institutional hearings and thematic hearings respectively. He clearly told the media that the Commission has no Mandate to grant amnesty but could recommend for such person or persons be granted forgiveness, upon application after the applicant meets certain conditions
He stated that the media is a trusted organ in terms of disseminating information. Therefore the commission deemed it prudent to engage them not only in the hearing aspects but on other activities such as reconciliation and reparations. However, in doing that, the interest of the commission should not be jeopardised.
He spoke of the daunting task ahead of the commission and said all efforts would be made to achieve the objectives of the commission. He therefore implore on all Gambians to be patience with the commission and pray for it as well.
The Deputy Chairperson of the TRRC, Mrs. Adelaide Sosseh recalled the pivotal role the media played in bringing change in The Gambia. “We trust you and that’s why we want you to be part of the process, rather than controlling everything at our level,” she said.
She therefore urged the media to apply responsible journalism when covering activities of the TRRC.
Mr. Ebou Waggeh, head of video documentations and processing, assured the media that information meant for public consumption would be provided to them at no cost.
Town Hall in Soma
The TRRC supported by the ICTJ, recently held a Town Hall Meeting in Soma to discuss, listen to queries, answer questions and understand the residents’ expectations and views about our work. Local talent from both youth and women groups entertained and interesting issues were raised during the discussions. We thank all the people of Soma and the surrounding for a fruitful engagement.
TRRC Prepares for Hearings
Commissioners and senior staff of the TRRC held a three-day working meeting to prepare for the start of hearings on January 7, 2019. The meeting was held in the Commission’s conference room at Dunes Resort, Kololi from December 10 to 12, 2018.
During the three-day intensive meeting, and in line with the provisions of Section 21 of the TRRC Act, 2017, the TRRC Legal Team in collaboration with the Research and Investigations Unit guided Commissioners on the development of Rules of Procedure for the Commission. In particular, the Legal Team guided the Commission’s conversations on Complaints Procedure, Admissibility of Complaints, Conduct of Investigations, and Conduct of Hearings. At the end of the meeting, a broad outline of Rules of Procedure was agreed upon and is being currently drafted by the Legal Team for final adoption by the Commissioners.
In line with the provisions of Section 18 of the TRRC Act, 2017, a number of subsidiary committees were also established during the three-day meeting. The committees set up were the Human Rights Violations Committee, Amnesty Committee, Reparations Committee, Child Protection and Sexual and Gender-based Violence Committee, and Reconciliation Committee. All but one of these committees have five commissioners on it; one has six members. All commissioners sit on at least two of the committees. Each committee will meet at least once before January 7 to develop their specific terms of reference in line with the provisions of the TRRC Act.
An outline of a 12-month work plan for the Commission was also developed and is being drafted. This plan indicates the number of possible hearings to be conducted during 2019, the specific areas of focus for these hearings, and will include a number of projected outreach activities for the year 2019.
Meanwhile, the TRRC is calling on all Victims of Human Rights Violations during 1994 to please come to the TRRC Headquarters at Dunes Resort, Kololi and share their statements. If they are unable to come to the TRRC Headquarters, they may call 9348929 or 2949170 and arrangements will be made to take their statements. Anyone that has any information on 1994 Human Rights Violations that will be helpful to the TRRC is also encouraged to come to our offices or call the above two numbers. Victims or witnesses who wish to provide statements or other information related to 1994 violations are advised to do so as soon as possible in order not to miss the opportunity of doing so once the research and investigations focus moves away from 1994. We will be sharing more phone numbers with the public and conducting outreach exercises to reach out to those who cannot call or come to the TRRC headquarters. The public is hereby informed that giving statements to the TRRC is free of charge to all victims and witnesses.
At this time, hearings-related logistics are being finalized at the TRRC headquarters. The main hall is being fitted with the necessary audio-visual equipment and witness protection mechanisms. Two dry runs of this equipment are planned before the start of hearings on January 7. The public is hereby informed that all public hearings of the TRRC are free and open to the public. Media accreditation will be issued to two journalists from each media house who have attended one or more of our five transitional justice trainings for journalists conducted over the past several months.
Again, the TRRC seeks the nation’s support and blessings as we all embark upon this challenging task of truth-seeking, justice, and healing this New Year.
TRRC Commissioner Training
September 10, 2018
TRRC Town Hall – Serrakunda
September 22, 2018
Women’s Listening Circle
September 29, 2018
Young Voices Campaign: Constituent Assembly
October 06, 2018
To capture young voices and engage young leaders in our work, the TRRC is hosting a Constituent Assembly in coordination with our partners from the youth movement. Over two days, young leaders will be elected by their peers to join the TRRC in Kombo to share their views, concerns, aims and commitments for the Gambian transitional justice process.
This event is in collaboration with the National Youth Council, TANGO, ICTJ and the UNDP.